As well as advancing the digital transformation of the divisions through ideas and new business models, Schacht One – the digital unit of the Haniel Group – sees itself as a driving force for wider digital transformation. The digital unit’s network – the Schacht One ecosystem – is growing every day. Our colleagues at Schacht One have now launched a new series of events focusing on digital megatrends and technologies that are already capable of delivering added value. The Maschinenhalle, an impressive space directly above the Schacht One offices, opened its doors on 21 June. Some 100 years ago, steam turbines, compressors and fans occupied centre stage here – but today, 70 invited guests from the Haniel Group and the Schacht One network are looking forward to a varied event focusing on the theme of artificial intelligence (AI).
The potential of AI
What does AI actually mean and why is there so much hype around it? Andreas Pflieger from IBM addressed these questions in the kick-off presentation. For IBM, AI is a combination of technologies that link deep learning – that is, artificial neural networks – with speech and text recognition, thereby emulating human intelligence. These technologies are designed to understand data, draw conclusions from this data, learn and, in an ideal scenario, improve processes and systems as a result. “Today, 80 per cent of data is dark data and therefore unusable”, explains Andreas Pflieger. This means that AI offers tremendous potential. Pflieger demonstrates exciting real-world examples from IBM: recognition and classification of audio-visual data, proactive machine maintenance before malfunctions occur and optimisation of production facilities. Digital assistants are a hot topic: CIMON is flying to the ISS as a digital companion of Alexander Gerst; Ask Mercedes explains the puzzling new functionalities in the cockpit; and other AI assistants are replacing dental assistants for online queries. An astonished murmur could be heard around the Maschinenhalle, not least when Pflieger demonstrated IBM’s latest project and future prospect: The “IBM Project Debater”, essentially a computer supplied with knowledge, impressed the audience with better arguments than the human in a debate about telemedicine. Conclusion: AI is here.
AI in action - process optimisation, strategy through to sales coaching
Next, six start-ups presented their solutions for how companies can use AI: Remy A. Lazarovici from Celonis demonstrated how their process mining solution visualises processes within a company and identifies areas of weakness. “In this way, processes become more transparent, quicker and more cost-effective,” said Lazarovici. Many customers have already come to value this solution.
Do you feel like you're in the dark about your data? Not with Mapegy. As well as shedding light on the internal data jungle, the start-up also analyses external data. “We identify today the opportunities and risks of tomorrow’s technology innovations," explains Peter Walde of Mapegy. The results of this process include sophisticated benchmarks that show the areas in which the competition may be ahead, areas that could pose a risk of disruption to the company’s business or areas in which the company could potentially undertake pioneering work with new partners.
With i2x, Johanna Jäger presented a start-up from the Microsoft world that captivated in particular guests from companies with a strong sales and customer services segment: i2x offers real-time conversation analysis and coaching with direct feedback. “Daily on-the-job training has proved to be much more effective,” the Microsoft Transformation Manager explained.
We all know how difficult it can be to find suitable candidates for vacancies and how long and drawn-out the selection processes can be – moberries is taking on this “pain point”. The Berlin-based start-up wants to automate the first interview stage. “This means that only the most suitable candidates are presented," says Terence Hielscher of moberries. This is becoming possible thanks to AI and a growing network of companies and candidates.
“The time saving for our customers can be up to 90 per cent,” says Guillaume Almetti of Inspirient, describing the biggest advantage of the start-up. While analysts and controllers often evaluate business data for days on end, Inspirient requires only split seconds to deliver new insights and findings.
The potential speed of AI is also impressively demonstrated by Anna Lukasson-Herzig of nyris: The start-up identifies images in less than a second. “We have a broad spectrum of experience,” says the founder and CEO of nyris. “Our application examples range from e-commerce to production right through to logistics processes.”
The audience all agreed that the start-ups offer real potential that the Haniel Group can take to the next level. Following the presentations, there was an opportunity for discussion with the representatives from the start-ups. The guests’ positive impressions of the new AI companies was confirmed when they put the applications to the test.
How AI projects add value
Jörg Bienert, AI Consultant and Head of the German Federal Association for Artificial Intelligence, makes the case for increased education and research on AI in Germany and Europe: “In Germany, we are a long way behind the USA in terms of investment in research and development on AI.” Increased knowledge would also help to dispel the often negative myths surrounding AI. His tips for companies: move forward step by step because AI projects within companies are also often met with disquiet – and not just about a loss of control. Together with Nikolaus Trzeschan of Lufthansa Miles & More and Anna Lukasson-Herzig of nyris, he also presented an example of a successful project: have you ever seen a product somewhere that you wanted to order straight away? Or do you find products from the Miles & More catalogue exciting, but want to order them from the comfort of your home? The rapid image recognition AI solution from nyris allows you to do this: take a photo of the desired product, instantly upload it to the Miles & More web shop and order directly. “We can also envisage further AI developments on this basis,” says Trzeschan. He believes there are lots of conceivable options: linking to the inventory systems of other trading firms or even managing marketing campaigns by means of best-seller or slow-seller analyses.
Digesting the day's insights with currywurst and a bass combo
The conversation continued into the evening, with guests translating fresh inspiration into action over currywurst and live music. There were quite a few exploratory discussions about potential collaborations. Dirk Müller, CIO of the Haniel Group and Managing Director of Schacht One, offers a positive summary of the event: “We learnt today that AI encompasses a broad spectrum of technologies and opportunities. There is a very wide range of starting points for our involvement. Intelligently combining existing internal data with information from external sources will be what makes the difference. The various real-world examples have demonstrated the potential of AI and shown what is already possible today,” says Müller. Given the exponential rate of the change, he was of course unable to say how the Haniel Group and its involvement will look in ten years’ time. “I hope that, at Haniel, we will stay focussed on the positive aspects of digital transformation. AI is part of this and will be part of our everyday lives.”