Pirelli Annual Report 2022
Interviews with Pirelli’s employees
Manufacturing & Improving Quality Director
Machine learning develops and uses algorithms to analyse structured data, learns from these and based on this learning, makes increasingly precise decisions in order to reduce the error rate while maximising efficiency. Is this really true, that the machine learns and man does not?
In my opinion, we cannot make such an absolute claim; the very fact that homo sapiens went from living in caves to the current level of prosperity and technology is proof of mankind’s ability to learn and pass on its knowledge. Artificial intelligence, with its ability to analyse very complex problems while handling a mass of data that a human being could not handle, will act as a multiplier of technological development enabling technological leaps to be made in a much shorter time than in the past. I see artificial intelligence as one more tool in the hands of mankind to improve its level of knowledge.
AI: machine = man: x. What is the unknown and/or added value that we can find in the work carried out and developed inside and outside the production plant?
The unknown can be defined as imagination and the ability for abstract thinking that humans have when compared to artificial intelligence. Algorithms, especially in industry, are a very powerful and effective tool, but since they have to be trained, they are most effective in known areas, i.e. on things they have already learned and seen. Human beings, on the other hand, while not being able to process a huge amount of data simultaneously, have the ability for abstract thinking and synthesis. To better explain myself, I will give an example: any algorithm will be able to identify a cat in a picture very quickly after seeing dozens or hundreds of pictures of cats, but if it is presented with a drawing of a stylised cat, it will not be able to recognise it without first having seen it. A child, on the contrary, is perfectly capable of making this association. This is why the AI/human combination is crucial in industry, because it is humans who identify the areas where these tools can be most effective and where their use can help them perform their tasks faster, more effectively and accurately. In short, artificial intelligence, with its ability to handle huge amounts of data in complex environments, can be seen as an amplifier of mankind’s senses, enabling it to tackle problems that were previously unthinkable to solve.
Artificial intelligence and human beings are often talked about as antitheses, but what if we talked about integration, in Pirelli?
In fact, this is a representation that I do not fully endorse. It is true that in some fields AI and man can compete,but it is equally true that the greatest benefits are obtained when these two worlds meet and combine. To better explain the concept, I will give some examples from our industrial world: today we have developed an application that allows some machines to communicate with operators by notifying them of anomalies through smart watches, so it is possible to intervene promptly before deviations turn into waste. In other cases, we have algorithms to predict the useful life of production equipment, combining cycles of use and usage patterns, and sending maintenance planning for their replacement before they fail. These are just a few virtuous examples where the use of artificial intelligence helps humans to do their work faster and more efficiently.