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Ultimaker launches software solution, Ultimaker Essentials

New subscription-based platform puts software at the heart of the enterprise and includes new eLearning platform to bridge widening knowledge gap.

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Ultimaker, a major player in professional desktop 3D printing, launched Ultimaker Essentials, a new software solution created to aid companies in overcoming major barriers in the adoption of additive manufacturing.

Ultimaker Essentials enables companies to incorporate 3D printing in existing IT infrastructures and allows for seamless distribution and updating of 3D printing software. The paid subscription-based software offering addresses several glaring IT pain-points, including the need for improve management across workflows and the knowledge gap that exists in the manufacturing industry.

A major concern within enterprise IT departments is the ability to successfully and centrally manage distribution 3D printing software. Ultimaker Essentials addresses this issue by ensuring updates and plugins are rolled out across users in an organization at the same time. This streamlines the process, providing better control across multiple 3D printers in an organization.

Ultimaker Essentials also includes a brand-new direct support function and a catalogue of verified plugins to help effectively scale 3D Printing outputs. Subscribing to Ultimaker Essentials provides organizations with an enterprise grade solution for adopting a full 3D printing infrastructure.

As part of the Ultimaker Essential package, users have access to three eLearning courses from the Ultimaker 3D Printing Academy, which also launches today. Ultimaker’s 2019 3D Printing Sentiment Index found that 69 percent of the professionals surveyed cited knowledge as the most frequent barrier, of which, 40 percent brought up a lack of necessary skillsets to properly leverage 3D printing. The Ultimaker 3D Printing Academy helps professionals overcome these barriers with curated and developed content catered specifically to the jobs of today. Courses in the Ultimaker 3D Printing Academy, ranging from novice to expert level, will also be available separate from Ultimaker Essentials.

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Robot-phobia could exacerbate hotel, restaurant labor shortage

Having a higher degree of robot-phobia was connected to greater feelings of job insecurity and stress – which were then correlated with “turnover intention” or workers’ plans to leave their jobs.

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Using more robots to close labor gaps in the hospitality industry may backfire and cause more human workers to quit, according to a Washington State University study.

The study, involving more than 620 lodging and food service employees, found that “robot-phobia” – specifically the fear that robots and technology will take human jobs – increased workers’ job insecurity and stress, leading to greater intentions to leave their jobs. The impact was more pronounced with employees who had real experience working with robotic technology. It also affected managers in addition to frontline workers.

The findings were published in the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.

“The turnover rate in the hospitality industry ranks among the highest across all non-farm sectors, so this is an issue that companies need to take seriously,” said lead author Bamboo Chen, a hospitality researcher in WSU’s Carson College of Business. “The findings seem to be consistent across sectors and across both frontline employees and managers. For everyone, regardless of their position or sector, robot-phobia has a real impact.”

Food service and lodging industries were hit particularly hard by the pandemic lockdowns, and many businesses are still struggling to find enough workers. For example, the accommodation workforce in April 2024 was still 9.2% below what it was in February 2020, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ongoing labor shortage has inspired some employers to turn to robotic technology to fill the gap.

While other studies have focused on customers’ comfort with robots, this study focuses on how the technology impacted hospitality workers. Chen and WSU colleague Ruying Cai surveyed 321 lodging and 308 food service employees from across the US, asking a range of questions about their jobs and attitudes toward robots. The survey defined “robots” broadly to include a range of robotic and automation technologies, such as human-like robot servers and automated robotic arms as well as self-service kiosks and tabletop devices.

Analyzing the survey data, the researchers found that having a higher degree of robot-phobia was connected to greater feelings of job insecurity and stress – which were then correlated with “turnover intention” or workers’ plans to leave their jobs. Those fears did not decrease with familiarity: employees who had more actual engagement with robotic technology in their daily jobs had higher fears that it would make human workers obsolete.

Perception also played a role. The employees who viewed robots as being more capable and efficient also ranked higher in turnover intention.

Robots and automation can be good ways to help augment service, Chen said, as they can handle tedious tasks humans typically do not like doing such as washing dishes or handling loads of hotel laundry. But the danger comes if the robotic additions cause more human workers to quit. The authors point out this can create a “negative feedback loop” that can make the hospitality labor shortage worse.

Chen recommended that employers communicate not only the benefits but the limitations of the technology – and place a particular emphasis on the role human workers play.

“When you’re introducing a new technology, make sure not to focus just on how good or efficient it will be. Instead, focus on how people and the technology can work together,” he said.

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Tech & Innovation

AI can enhance flexibility, efficiency for customer service centers

AI is a valuable asset, so long as it’s used properly, though these organizations shouldn’t rely on it exclusively to guide their strategies.

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Whenever you call a customer service contact center, the team on the other end of the line typically has three goals: to reduce their response time, solve your problem and do it within the shortest service time possible.

However, resolving your problem might entail a significant time investment, potentially clashing with an overarching business objective to keep service duration to a minimum. These conflicting priorities can be commonplace for customer service contact centers, which often rely on the latest technology to meet customers’ needs.

To pursue those conflicting demands, these organizations practice what’s referred to as ambidexterity, and there are three different modes to achieve it: structural separation, behavioral integration and sequential alternation. So, what role might artificial intelligence (AI) systems play in improving how these organizations move from one ambidexterity mode to another to accomplish their tasks?

New research involving the School of Management at Binghamton University, State University of New York explored that question. Using data from different contact center sites, researchers examined the impact of AI systems on a customer service organization’s ability to shift across ambidexterity modes.

The key takeaway: it’s a delicate balancing act; AI is a valuable asset, so long as it’s used properly, though these organizations shouldn’t rely on it exclusively to guide their strategies.

Associate Professor Sumantra Sarkar, who helped conduct the research, said the study’s goal was to understand better how organizations today might use AI to guide their transition from one ambidexterity mode to another because certain structures or approaches might be more beneficial from one month to the next. 

“Customer service organizations often balance exploiting the latest technology to boost efficiency and, therefore, save money,” Sarkar said. “This dichotomy is what ambidexterity is all about, exploring new technology to gain new insights and exploiting it to gain efficiency.”

As part of the three-year study, researchers examined the practices of five contact center sites: two global banks, one national bank in a developing country, a telecommunication Fortune 500 company in South Asia and a global infrastructure vendor in telecommunications hardware.

While many customer service organizations have spent recent years investing in AI, assuming that not doing so could lead to customer dissatisfaction, the researchers found these organizations haven’t used AI to its full potential. They have primarily used it for self-service applications.

Some of the AI-assisted tasks researchers tracked at those sites included:

  • using AI systems to automatically open applications, send emails and transfer information from one system to another
  • approving or disapproving loan applications
  • providing personalized service based on customer’s data and contact history

Researchers determined that while it’s beneficial for customer service companies to be open to harnessing the benefits and navigating any challenges of AI systems as a guide to their business strategies, they should not do so at the expense of supporting quality professional development and ongoing learning opportunities for their staff.

Sarkar said that to fully utilize AI’s benefits, those leading customer service organizations need to examine every customer touchpoint and identify opportunities to enhance the customer experience while boosting the operation’s efficiency.

As a result, Sarkar said newcomers in this technology-savvy industry should learn how companies with 20 or 30 years of experience have already adapted to changes in technology, especially AI, during that time before forming their own business strategies.

“Any business is a balancing game because what you decide to do at the start of the year based on a forecast has to be revised over and over again,” Sarkar said. “Since there’s that added tension within customer service organizations of whether they want to be more efficient or explore new areas, they have to work even harder at striking that balance. Using AI in the right way effectively helps them accomplish that.”

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Emojis make tourism advertising on social media more effective, appealing

The use of emojis in online messages about tourism destinations facilitates processing and reduces ambiguity, especially when the recipients encounter content with low levels of congruence.

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The use of congruent messages and emojis when promoting tourist destinations on social media leads to greater user attention. This strategy helps users to process the information effectively and reduces their cognitive effort. More specifically, the use of emojis in online messages about tourism destinations facilitates processing and reduces ambiguity, especially when the recipients encounter content with low levels of congruence.

This is according to a research – “The effect of online message congruence, destination-positioning, and emojis on users’ cognitive effort and affective evaluation” – that was published in the Journal of Destination Marketing & Management.

The study, which was carried out at the University of Granada’s Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre (CIMCYC), consisted of an experiment using eye-tracking techniques on 60 users of the social network Facebook. These individuals underwent a series of experimental procedures in which the researchers manipulated the level of congruence between the messages of those posting and the users, the use or omission of emojis in the content, and the way in which the tourist destination was positioned in the media (natural environment, gastronomy, hotels, sun and beach).

The UGR research team, which includes Beatriz García Carrión, Francisco Muñoz Leiva, Salvador del Barrio García and Lucia Porcu, point out that the study “clearly illustrates the benefits in terms of the effectiveness of using congruent messages in marketing communications in general, and especially in digital communications via social media, as well as how the use of emojis contributes to improving users’ information processing, increasing their attention and reducing the cognitive effort involved. Moreover, congruent messages not only facilitate users’ information processing, but also improve their affective evaluation — a crucial aspect when it comes to making a decision on a tourist destination.”

The key findings included:

  • Importance of maintaining a high level of congruence in the information they convey through social media. As the researchers explain: “This involves systematically reviewing and managing comments across all communication channels to identify any comments that do not align with the destination’s desired positioning, with a view to mitigating potential negative effects.”
  • Pictorial representations (emojis) significantly enhance the overall comprehension of the information. However, the study did not find a significant impact of emojis on the formation of affective evaluations.
  • Tourism managers should focus on information related to the destination’s gastronomy and natural environment, rather than more conventional aspects such as sun and beach facilities or hotel offerings, as the former attract more attention and are perceived more favorably, even under low levels of congruence.

The research findings suggest a shift in the preferences of potential consumers towards more nature-based tourism. “Therefore, tourism managers should place greater emphasis on communicating aspects related to the environment and sustainability of the tourist destination in their social media posts, thereby reaping benefits in terms of visual attention and affective evaluations,” the researchers stressed.

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