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March Modernization Madness: Human vs. Machine


With March Madness in full force, this blog miniseries showcases important modernization topics in a head-to-head matchup style. Installment #4 features the ongoing debate between Human vs. Machine. 

With the ever-increasing capabilities of robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), the fear of ‘machines’ replacing humans in the workplace is still enduring. This known fear tends to lead people to believe that it’s all or nothing – either embrace new technologies to improve operations and displace people or don’t embrace them at all for the sake of job security. Is there a middle ground where both can happily coexist? One of the many lessons learned during the pandemic was that using advanced automation driven by organizational data proved to be a great social distancing tool to continue operations and keep humans safe. As technologies continue to evolve and situations such as this recent pandemic present new threats, we are left to ask – can there be a successful partnership between humans and machines?

To help answer this question, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both operational intelligence approaches and determine if humans and machines can successfully work side by side.

What Works Well

Humans: The human touch – creativity, the ability to critically think and communicate, and the capacity for empathy. There are many occupations in which humans are irreplaceable when it comes to these attributes.

Machines: Speed and reliability are big selling points for leveraging advanced technologies. Laborious, manual tasks can be automated to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. Unlike humans, where bias can be present in decision-making, technologies do not introduce these biases into their work.

What Doesn’t Work As Well

Humans: As humans, we know we can make mistakes. Naturally, when relying solely on humans to perform manual tasks, there are more possibilities for error and certain tasks can be time-consuming. In times when scaling up or down is necessary, it can be difficult.

Machines: Technologies such as AI, ML, and RPA do have a higher initial investment. Unlike humans who can think on their feet, that isn’t always the case for technology.

Can Humans and Machines Work Well Together?

Absolutely. Working together, organizations can optimize processes and drive more value-based outcomes by leveraging both human resources and machines. Machines can help take over the work of humans to free them up to work on more strategic initiatives. Take the case of a medical equipment manufacturing company that specializes in clinical oncology that now leverages an artificial intelligence (AI) platform to host more than 1,400 models-based algorithms to auto-segment CT scan images and identify various organs within CT scan images. This capability provides better support for patient needs by providing image analysis models for the entire human body and insights for patient treatment. With this platform, the company can use AI to automate some of the processes that go into diagnosing cancer and predicting outcomes based on radiology imaging. Where it used to take a dosimetrist up to 5 hours to manually contour a CT image using contouring software with an error rate of 7% on organ scans, the AI platform can contour the image in 30 seconds. This allows the physician to serve more patients per day.

There are so many great examples of humans and machines working well together for the betterment of humanity. Using ML-augmented applications, manufacturers can monitor the condition of equipment remotely and use the data collected to determine how to optimize maintenance. This is especially helpful to reduce dependencies on human intervention and improve operational efficiencies, enable real-time decision-making, decrease unnecessary costs, and mitigate risks for employees. Working side-by-side, humans and machines can help their organizations rise to new heights of productivity while avoiding costly repairs and keeping humans out of unsafe situations.

To learn more about modernization approaches, contact us today.