Posts Tagged innovator
I was reading an article that appeared in Tuesday’s USAToday with the headline – “Amazon puts 15,000 robots to work on Cyber Monday”. 15,000?!?! The Kiva Systems robots do tasks that historically have been done by some number of Amazons 88,400 employees. Robots picking products that are purchased online by consumers that then need to be shipped to them from Amazon fulfillment centers across the globe cost some number of people jobs. Using Kiva robots obviously provides great value to Amazon shareholders since they don’t require a human resource department to oversee payroll, other benefits such as medical and dental plans, vacation days, sick days, etc.. But this can’t be good for union and hourly workers.
Robots are obviously taking over or facilitating any number of manual jobs that historically have been done by employees. Amazon’s use of robots brings the product(s) ordered online and stored in shelf bins to a packer for shipping. Once the purchased item is delivered to the packer the robot returns the shelf bin back to where it belongs awaiting the next task. These robots have certainly saved Amazon the cost of workers who provided this service. The article says that Amazon spent $ 775 million for the Kiva robots and that, “The robots are part of a complex software and hardware system that simplifies picking and packing at warehouses that contain literally millions of items.” The article doesn’t mention that each robot, and the systems that supports them, cost an average of $ 51,667. Payscale.com estimates that the average Amazon employee salary cost is in a range of $ 50,098 – $ 122,195. After Amazon’s initial investment in the Kiva robots there would be ongoing costs for maintenance, repairs, replacements and of course those whose job it is to manage the 15,000 robots, but Amazon obviously did all the internal analysis and studies to see that the return on investment was well worth the $ 775 million.
The advent of using robots isn’t new, but with robots taking over responsibilities of human pickers at Amazon and the use of robots across countless industries and companies the potential loss of unskilled or low skill jobs could be devastating. Taking place at the same time is the strong push by some city and state governments to increase the minimum wage through legislation. Somehow there seems to be a potential disconnect.
Redwood.com compiled a report titled “The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”. Reason #2 in this report is:
“Happy and Productive Employees
Automated tasks keep people—who can get bored or irritated by doing repetitive tasks—free from drudgery. It also liberates them to do more strategic and valuable activities for the company. Automation lies at the core of all of our modern conveniences. Machines are made to do repetitive, boring tasks—without complaining.”
You can see where the use of robots and/or automation that is rapidly taking over or helping employees in their jobs providing cost reductions and greater shareholder value for companies who utilize them, but I’m guessing that most employees would prefer being “bored or irritated” and not “free from drudgery” versus not having a job. Certainly there are countless jobs that won’t be taken over by robots, but is your job completely safe from being replaced by a robot so that you can be freed to do something else? I’m guessing the Amazon employees that were picking products for packing at one time thought so.
If you’re a business owner or in management with responsibility for delivering shareholder value you have to continually be looking for ways to cut costs and increase value just as Amazon has done. There are countless jobs that aren’t going to be replaced by robots, but are there robots that can help you improve the productivity of your employees making their jobs easier and provide greater shareholder value? As companies compete against each other for business at a local, regional, national or international basis; looking for the slightest advantage against industry competitors the answer has to be yes. What are you doing to take any advantage available and ensure that you continue to grow and prosper in your industry?
“The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”
Today I’m talking with David Carnahan, the owner of Mainstreet Computers, Inc. Mainstreet opened for business in May 1982. Mainstreet is a leading provider of software solutions to the automotive glass repair and replacement (AGRR) industry. I’ve been fortunate to have utilized David’s software products to help manage AGRR businesses in the United States, as well as Canada. Over the years, I’ve found David as a businessman who has the highest of values, principles and ethics in operating Mainstreet. This April Mainstreet celebrates its 30th year in business.
DR: Congratulations David! That is quite an accomplishment in the longevity of any business and one you and your employees should be most proud. How did you find yourself providing software solutions to the AGRR industry?
David Carnahan: In those early days we sold to virtually any industry, but we concentrated on smaller businesses. This was before the days of “off the shelf software”. We wrote or modified our programs to suit each company we sold. After selling to several glass shops we became more familiar with their needs and saw an opportunity to become a complete solution to glass shops across the country. So beginning in the mid 1980’s we began focusing on glass and Glas-Avenue born.
DR: What do you feel are the keys to your success in being able to build, sustain and grow Mainstreet Computers over the past 30 years?
David Carnahan: Though there are many “keys to success”, I’d like to mention two …
1. A mentor to Steve Jobs (the founder of Apple Computer) is quoted as saying that a company that lasts must be willing and able to reinvent itself. I believe that is true and particularly true in the technology field. When we started serving the glass industry back in the 1980’s we concentrated as much on selling hardware as we did on selling software but by the early 1990’s customers were better served buying hardware locally, so we changed our whole model and focused strictly on software and software solutions. Then about seven years ago we extended that service into designing and developing websites which has proven to be a great “re-invention” as we have helped scores of glass (and other service industry) shops “re-invent” themselves and move from dying to thriving.
2. A lasting company must have a long term mentality. We have always hired people with the idea they would work here until they retire. The cost in time and customer frustration of hiring and training new people is much greater that most people realize. Most of our people have well in excess of 15 years with us. When your people don’t expect to be around in a few years it affects every facet of the company from new product development to customer support. It’s also makes the work environment more rewarding.
David Carnahan (left) with Programmer Dave Daniels (right) who recently celebrated his 25th year with Mainstreet.
DR: How would you describe your management style and who has been a great help to you in building your business?
David Carnahan: I am a Christian and my faith impacts the way I lead the company. I view Mainstreet as God’s company not my own, so I’m responsible to be a good steward of His company. My philosophy is to find good people, treat them right and provide an environment where they can shine and excel in their strength areas. I have a speech that I give prospective employees. I tell them that I don’t believe in micromanaging, so … “if you’re the type of employee that only performs well with someone constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure you do your job, you won’t fit in here.” Our people know their jobs and the mission of our company and they “just do it”. I believe the longevity of our staff speaks for itself.
DR: What lessons have you learned in growing your business that you think could be helpful to others seeking similar success?
David Carnahan: Don’t give up. Success is not an event, it’s a process. I believe slow steady growth is much more stable than explosive growth. Never stop trying to improve and never take anything for granted – customers, sales or employees.
DR: What are the services that Mainstreet Computers provides to its customers and how have those changed over the past 30 years?
David Carnahan: We provide fully integrated Point Of Sale and accounting software to retail glass businesses – from small “mom and pop” shops to large multi-store chains. We also offer website design and web hosting geared toward helping the glass shop market themselves and increase sales through the internet. The biggest change in our strategy came 25 years ago when we began focusing primarily on the glass industry. This strategic decision of ‘narrowing the focus to broaden the impact’ has enabled us to really gain an understanding of the needs of the glass industry.
DR: How do those differ from your competitors?
David Carnahan: Mainstreet is the first and only glass software provider to offer a fully integrated accounting system. We wrote it ourselves and it’s specifically designed to work with our Point Of Sale program. Since we wrote it we fully support every part of it, so we’re the only contact a glass shop has to make for help with their software. We are also the only glass software provider designing websites for the industry.
Beyond basic products, the other characteristic that sets Mainstreet apart is our level of support. We have more people with more years of experience supporting our products than any other company. We are relentless in our commitment to provide support that is unparalleled in the industry.
DR: You’re an innovator in the industry. What were the main reasons you felt that strategy would work as successfully as it has?
David Carnahan: The reason for our success is simple. Mainstreet’s software and services meet a real need by enabling glass shop owners to benefit from technology without being or becoming technology experts. We provide the technological expertise while they concentrate on running their glass business.
DR: I very much appreciate your taking the time to talk with me today. In closing, is there anything further you’d like to share with the readers of this blog?
David Carnahan: Thank you David for all you do for the glass industry. You have a depth of knowledge and experience in this industry that is very rare. I hope you continue to advocate for the independent glass shop owners.
Thank you David and thanks again for taking the time to talk. I know that you, your employees and company will continue to have great success in the years to come.