From crunching numbers to precision motor tasks, machine learning algorithms automate thousands of human actions with no need for food or rest. For warehouse automation, in particular, robots powered by machine learning can take over boring and strenuous physical labor like picking and packing. On the surface, this application of artificial intelligence seems like a miracle solution to all kinds of challenges across industries.
But these algorithms are far from perfect. They rely on data compiled by humans, and can only be left unsupervised for simple tasks where they have consistently high confidence in their actions. Otherwise, they’re likely to make errors that disrupt business or require extensive checking after the fact.
So, if humans are too fragile and algorithms can’t be trusted, how can warehouse and supply chain managers achieve peak productivity?
Well, that’s simple. Combine workers and algorithms for human-in-the-loop machine learning.
How does human-in-the-loop machine learning work?
When the confidence that a machine learning algorithm has in its decision is below the threshold set by its operator, there are two courses of action:
- Lower the confidence threshold and risk an incorrect outcome.
- Allow a human operator to tell the software the right answer.
By including a human in the loop to provide feedback on the algorithm’s decisions, you can help it build a better dataset. This exponentially reduces the chance of errors over time, leading to improved accuracy and productivity.
While it’s true that you could power your algorithm with a freely available public dataset, these are extremely unlikely to cater to your specific needs. By using public datasets instead of developing your own, you risk interfering with your productivity by asking machines to act on faulty information.
Rather than spending years gathering your dataset, human-in-the-loop machine learning allows you to automate your business right away. You can start with a high confidence threshold that requires a lot of human input, and then gradually lower it as your software becomes more capable.
Benefits of human-in-the-loop machine learning
The ability to run your business 24/7 with greater speed and fewer errors is certainly the main appeal of keeping a human in the loop. But it also carries additional benefits that add just as much value to your operation. Human-in-the-loop machine learning can also:
Creates safe, stimulating jobs
The biggest fear of machine learning is that it will take jobs away from human workers, resulting in high unemployment and an unstable economy. But moving your employees away from tedious and difficult roles actually improves their job situation.
Machine learning algorithms need a human in the loop to produce the best possible results. In warehouse automation, that means upskilling your existing workers to monitor and guide your picking and packing robots. Your workers will be taking on more intellectually stimulating roles and can even enjoy greater personal freedom by cutting down on commuting time.
This in turn leads to higher job satisfaction. And since happy employees correlate with lower staff turnover and more extensive experience, human-in-the-loop machine learning continues to save you money and boost productivity.
Lastly, by moving your employees away from lifting, moving, and carrying heavy goods, you reduce the number of injuries they might sustain. This minimizes staff absences and protects you against lawsuits that could reach millions of dollars. It also gives you a reputation for performing your duty of care, raising your reputation among the public.
Increases the efficiency of your human workers
Through training and experience, your employees have learned to effectively perform their role in your business. But since they can only be in one place at a time, their efficiency is limited.
With human-in-the-loop machine learning, a single supervisor can monitor an entire fleet of robots simultaneously. They’re not restricted to just one location at a time, and so can apply their expertise across multiple tasks at once to dramatically improve productivity.
This multiplicity also allows your human workers to pass on their knowledge and expertise throughout your business. In robotics monitoring, one supervisor might be overseeing up to 50 machines. That means you benefit from up to 50 times their ability to perform, accelerating your business like never before.
Ensures consistency and quality
Reducing errors isn’t just about feeding more data into your machine learning program. It’s also about raising the quality of that data to consistently produce accurate results.
When left to build its own dataset, there’s a risk that an algorithm might encounter biases. If left unchecked, it will then begin to learn unhelpful patterns, in which each incorrect response reinforces its behavior.
But the combination of a stimulating role and lower exertion means your human in the loop remains at peak awareness. They can then use their sharp intuition to spot and correct biases before they become embedded in the algorithm. This also makes them more likely to offer the software a correct solution, thereby providing a superior dataset for your machine learning algorithm to grow.
Human-in-the-loop machine learning in action
At Plus One Robotics, we advocate for human-in-the-loop machine learning through our suite of warehouse automation tools. In fact, our two main products work together to make picking and packing a breeze.
Our PickOne perception system is the fastest 3D and AI-powered vision software on the market. It delivers precise hand-eye coordination for logistics robots, allowing them to fulfill ecommerce and warehouse distribution tasks at speed.
When robots operating with PickOne do encounter uncertainty, this can easily be resolved by our Yonder remote supervision software suite. Our remote supervisors — who we call Crew Chiefs — are available 24/7 to solve your automated production challenges in seconds.
With Plus One Robotics, you can gain the benefits of human-in-the-loop machine learning for your ecommerce business right now. Fill in our short contact form to request a demo, and we’ll show you the power of automation.