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Getting Ahead of the Artificial Intelligence Game 

Embracing and leveraging evolving technology is key to the success of every business – and few technologies have evolved faster than Artificial Intelligence.

AI has quickly gone from a science-fiction plot device to a real-world phenomenon that is transforming countless aspects of daily life – including work.

To better understand AI and spur ideas about how it could be successfully integrated into our business, about 100 Toyota Tsusho America team members recently participated in a two-day immersion workshop focused on the rapidly growing technology.

Employees from across North America gathered in Georgetown, Kentucky, splitting into teams with the goal of creating theoretical projects using the software platform of Toyota Tsusho America’s new AI provider, which hosted and directed the competitive workshop.

“We can be on the bus, or we can be at the station watching the bus leave,” said Robert Staats, TAI Enterprise Architect and Deputy CIO. “It’s easy to go out and buy technology. But this immersion really brings the people together that plan to use the tool and has them work together to solve real-world business problems.

“Ideally, that’s going to provide better adoption and better acceptance of the tool from the outset.”

Creating AI champions

During the immersion workshop, team members got to know and collaborate with their counterparts from other divisions and facilities throughout TAI. Several intriguing and potentially transformative ideas were developed, with some projects earning special recognition from a panel of judges – along with prize packages for each team member.

Prize-winning projects included, among others, a plan to support sales growth by using AI to predict and exploit market trends.

 Some teams added especially memorable creative flourishes to their winning presentations – including a skit illustrating the frustration of getting beaten out for a sale, and the use of dinosaur costumes to encourage embracing the future.

“Getting the initial investment approved to start working with AI is one thing, but it’s such a new technology that making sure people have a general understanding of how the tool works is really important,” said Charity Barnes, Group Vice President, CIO and CISO.

“AI has such potential to impact our growth, our cost savings, our innovation, that this was money well spent. Now, instead of having a really small group of people who understand the technology and can assist with the implementation, you’ve got dozens of new champions who can go out there and start making a difference.”

One such champion is Mike Atkinson, Sales Manager at Green Metals Canada and a member of one of the prize-winning teams.

“The whole event was really well done. It was a lot of fun, and very eye-opening,” Atkinson said. “Getting to see every team’s presentation and what they came up with during their collaboration was great.

“Things like artificial intelligence are coming, and we have to be open to bringing them into our lives and our work. I’m really encouraged to see that Toyota Tsusho is investing in events like this to bring people together to look forward into possibilities for the future.”

Staats agreed that the AI immersion workshop was a massive success that will quickly begin paying dividends.

“I asked for the division heads to identify forward-thinkers, entrepreneurs, and tech-savvy people for this event. I think we did that,” Staats said. “We brought them together and the output across all the groups was pretty amazing.

“This is just the beginning.”