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Artificial Intelligence (AI) Professor Alexiei Dingli has pinpointed manufacturing and retail as two of the main industries that will be most impacted by AI adoption, with businesses within these industries needing to reinvent their business models.

Last week, global corporate services firm PwC released the 27th edition of its Annual Global CEO Survey, featuring the replies of more than 4,700 CEOs from all over the world. The findings revealed that 45 per cent of CEOs believe that their companies will no longer be viable in 10 years’ time, should they continue operating on their current trajectory.

Due to this, a renewed impetus to reinvent their business models is being felt, particularly amidst rapid technological development. While many are seeking to integrate AI at the workplace, the survey highlighted that many executives are concerned about the risks tied to cybersecurity and misinformation. The report also adds that one in four respondents anticipate a reduction of five per cent or more in their headcount in 2024 because of AI.

But which industries will be most impacted by the need for AI adoption?

Following the publication of the survey, MaltaCEOs.mt reached out to Alexiei Dingli, a Professor on AI within University of Malta’s Faculty of ICT, to highlight the industries which will be most under threat if they fail to board the AI train. Prof Dingli has also made waves recently after securing the highest ever investment on Malta’s Shark Tank, a business-themed television programme giving entrepreneurs the chance to secure business deals. Prof Dingli walked away with €1.3 million in funding for his AI-powered traffic management system after appearing on the show last week.

Alexiei Dingli / e-learning
Professor Alexiei Dingli / e-Learning & Innovative Pedagogies

Through his 25 years of experience in the ICT industry, Professor Dingli has established himself as a leading expert in AI. He has an extensive track record of leading successful AI research and development projects, and is also Chairperson of the Technology Business Section Committee within The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.

Professor Dingli noted that the survey highlights the “critical role” that AI adoption has in ensuring businesses remain “competitive and viable”, with it having a varied impact across different industries.

Manufacturing

Professor Dingli said that within the manufacturing industry, AI is vital when it comes to predictive maintenance, quality control, and supply chain optimisation. Failing to utilise AI could prompt businesses to experience reduced efficiency and quality, affecting cost-effectiveness.

“In fact, we’ll be seeing a drive for ‘lights out’ or ‘dark factory’ manufacturing, methodologies already in place in Malta where the production process in factories is fully automated, reducing or even eliminating the need for human presence,” he explained.

He remarked that this approach, which requires technologies such as machine learning and robotics, is particularly driven by the potential for increased productivity, cost savings, and improved quality control.

However, amidst all of these changes and the shift towards automation, Professor Dingli said that the labour market will be significantly impacted.

“As low-skilled jobs are automated, there’s an increasing demand for high-skilled workers who can manage and maintain these automated systems. This shift leads to a trend where high-skilled, high-paid jobs replace low-skilled, low-paid jobs,” he affirmed.

This will put further stress on the labour market, which is already facing a shortage of high-skilled workers, leading to available workers demanding relatively higher wages than employers would normally be willing to pay.

Retail and e-commerce

When it comes to the retail and e-commerce sector, Professor Dingli anticipates that AI will create “enhanced customer experiences, personalised recommendations, and efficient inventory and logistics management.”

Should a business in this sector fail to incorporate AI, it will struggle with a loss of competitive edge in customer engagement and operational efficiency.

“The name of the game today is the following: companies that use AI will take over those that don’t!” he stressed.

Healthcare

Healthcare specialists have been appealing for greater AI integration for quite a while, with some stating that Malta is perfectly positioned in order to give AI and innovative technologies more prominence within the healthcare sector. EBO.ai CEO Gege Gatt had said that due to the country’s size, together with its digitally mature audience, the adoption by citizens tends to be “easier.”

Professor Dingli joined Dr Gatt in highlighting the “transformative potential” that AI has within the sector.

He said that this is evident in diagnostics, patient care, and personalised medicine, and thus it is “essential” for healthcare providers to adopt AI to “avoid lagging in patient care and medical research.”

Financial services

Professor Dingli stated that the financial services industry views AI as a “game-changer” in risk assessment, fraud detection, customer service, and personalised financial planning.

Failure to bring on board AI could potentially result in struggles with regards to “operational inefficiencies and failing to meet increasing customer expectations.”

Transportation and logistics

Similarly to financial services, AI’s influence on transportation and logistics will mostly be tied to maintaining operational efficiency and managing costs, according to Professor Dingli.

He added that AI has the ability to “optimise routing, enhance safety, and streamline logistics management.”

“Keep in mind that self-driving cars will become common. In Malta, we’ll be testing self-driving buses in the coming months,” Professor Dingli continued.

Energy and utilities

Lastly, he added that the energy and utilities sector will most benefit from the leverage of AI in order to optimise energy, forecast demand, and improve grid management, “without which companies may struggle with inefficiency and adapting to changing energy landscapes.”

Professor Dingli pointed out that these examples show the importance of AI across different industries, not only as a tool to maintain competitiveness, but a “crucial element for innovation and sustainable growth”.

“What’s for sure is that those that will not adopt AI will perish,” he emphasised.

So that poses the question: How can business leaders adopt AI?

To best explain this, Professor Dingli compiled a five-step AI transformation process.

First of all, business leaders need to identify the “key pain points” present. The specific challenges or areas where AI can bring significant improvements to the industry, together with “quick wins” like customer service, operational efficiency, or product development, must be highlighted.

Secondly, he urged businesses to invest in talent and training. AI will not only impact human resources in terms of automating certain tasks, but it also requires the development and acquisition of AI expertise.

“This might involve hiring AI specialists, training existing staff, or partnering with AI solution providers,” Professor Dingli added.

Following that, AI needs to be integrated with existing system in an effective way. “It’s important to integrate AI solutions with current business processes and systems seamlessly. This requires a strategic approach to digital transformation,” he continued.

Afterwards, pilot projects need to be created in order for the industry to understand AI’s impact, making any necessary adjustments prior to wide-scale implementation.

Lastly, Professor Dingli said that progress needs to be continuously monitored and evaluated. This will help businesses analyse the performance of AI system, helping them make “data-driven decisions” for future AI initiatives.

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