CHICAGO — While the early adapters of AI technology are the largest corporations using AI for speech recognition, customer service, vision recognition, marketing and stock trading, among many others, I wondered what the future of AI might look like in the laundry industry.
I asked ChatGPT, “How will AI affect the drycleaning industry in the future” and it gave several points to ponder. While the last update for the AI’s engine was in September 2021 — a lifetime ago in AI terms — it still provided a lot of food for thought.
Following are the remaining general points of consideration it gave me (see Part 1 of this series for the other ideas it provided), along with my musings for possible-use cases for cleaners in the future.
UPS, as well as most of the other large services, currently uses AI to improve its package delivery by optimizing delivery routes using data supplied by customers, drivers and vehicles, altering routes on the fly based on weather and accidents. This same technology can be utilized in our industry to economize on fuel, time and vehicle wear while improving delivery time.
Customer Service Interactions
Almost everyone has had an experience with an automated attendant when calling the power company or their cable provider. I believe most of us would agree that these virtual assistants can be frustrating at times with their limited ability to understand our requests, but great strides are being made in this area. Some are approaching the perceived skills and friendliness of a human. I have no current plans to replace our human customer service representatives at my company, but I can envision adding AI to the tools to allow us to help our customers more quickly and accurately.
In its current evolution, AI really shines when analyzing data. It can look at huge amounts of unstructured data and find patterns that would escape most human researchers. Many times, AI will arrive at solutions to problems while the AI developers have no idea what process the AI used, yet the solutions are inarguably better than any previously known. We will no doubt use the power of AI to help our managers and decision-makers optimize operations, boost target marketing and improve overall customer satisfaction.
Replacing Human Labor
While human-like robot assistants are not common now except in repetitive assembly-line factories, this technology is advancing rapidly. It will not be long before AI-powered assistants will perform tasks like folding, ironing, and storing clean laundry. Companies like Boston Dynamics are developing research robots that can lift more weight than me, dance better than me (though I don’t set the bar very high) and navigate obstacles better than me. I highly recommend watching the YouTube video “Do You Love Me” on the Boston Dynamics page for entertainment and to get a sense of the state of the art in robotics.
As AI technology continues to evolve, many fields, including the drycleaning industry, could see exciting transformations and enhanced efficiency in the years to come. Be sure to keep your ear to the ground as this technology matures.
For Part 1 of this series, click HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].