Posts Tagged USAToday

Employees vs. Robots

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.

Automation Robots vs People

 

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?

Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

www.usatoday.com

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2014/12/01/robots-amazon-kiva-fulfillment-centers-cyber-monday/19725229/

www.kivasystems.com

http://www.kivasystems.com/about-us-the-kiva-approach/

www.amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/Locations-Careers/b?ie=UTF8&node=239366011

http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Careers-Homepage/b?node=239367011

www.payscale.com

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=Amazon.com_Inc/Salary#by_Yearly_Sales

www.wikipedia.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pick_and_pack

www.Redwood.com

“The Top 10 Reasons Businesses Demand Enterprise-Level Automation”

 

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Just Sayin’ Blog – What’s Your Line-up?

I was talking with someone the other day and she asked, “What’s your line-up?” We were talking about business, but the question threw me for a second. Was she asking about my fantasy football team? I wasn’t quite sure so I asked, “My line-up for what?”

I live in Chicago and like many big cities we enjoy a number of professional teams. The Chicagoland area has an:

NFL football team – The Chicago Bears,

NBA basketball team – The Chicago Bulls,

MLB baseball team(s) – The Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs,

NHL hockey team – The Chicago Blackhawks,

AHL hockey team – The Chicago Wolves and an

MLS soccer team – The Chicago Fire.

Each of these professional teams have enjoyed well known successes and equally well known failures over the years. Champions in one way or another, but for some it’s been a while (i.e. Bartman…just an excuse). One common element of each is that it’s the job of ownership and/or management to put together the best team possible to ensure success week in and week out which will drive increased fan interest and that equals increased revenues and profits. That right mix of team members should determine how the goals that are set for the team are accomplished.

For me, this time of year my focus moves from football to NCAA basketball. In an article in the USAToday from December 10, 2012 the University of Illinois men’s basketball coach John Groce calls the bond between team members “T-n-T” (toughness and togetherness). That seems appropriate for getting the team through a season of home and away games working their way to the ultimate prize of getting an invite to the dance – March Madness. March Madness is one of the greatest sporting events and to get there Coach Groce is right that it takes “T-n-T”. I think he’s onto something.

Getting back to the question, “What’s your line-up?” When I asked what she was referring to she said, “Oh. I meant who’s on your team?”

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Over the past year or so in blogs I’ve posted I’ve talked about what I feel is the most important thing in business – people. In a blog titled Inconvenient Truth(s) I wrote,

“You can’t really find the greatest success in your business without surrounding yourself with the best people you can find. Basketball legend John Wooden was quoted as saying,

Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” 

Sound advice from a true winner.”

You obviously need to have a good product and service offering that differentiates you from others in the market, but if you look at other past blog posts you can see a reoccurring theme of what I think is important and that’s the people. In order to find real success in business you have to be able to assemble a great team that can deliver on the promise you make to your customers for your product and service.

It really doesn’t matter what kind of business you have, you have to surround yourself with the best. So whether the business you’re responsible for running is a sports team, a body shop, a donut shop, a retail clothing store, an auto glass repair and replacement (AGRR) store or company you had better make sure that your team is comprised of the best and you better find a way to keep them.

Let’s face it, businesses thrive, languish or ultimately fail depending on how their team performs. You can’t take your team for granted. The best people want to be a part of a winning team and they don’t want to settle for second best. Great team members embrace the vision you have for your business and for your team. They are your team as long as you keep them motivated and focused on delivering on your customer promise, while providing them an environment for them to excel. They are after all stars and they want to perform and be a part of the best.

So if someone asks you “What’s your line-up?” Think about who makes up your team. Do you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, a basketball player like LeBron James, a hockey great like Wayne Gretzky?

Who’s on your team? Who can make a difference for your company? Who is it that helps make your product better than anyone else in the market(s) you compete? Do you surround yourself with the best you can find? You should.

“What’s your line-up?”

Just sayin’……

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