Let’s talk about automation! The great trend sweeping the nation with firings, mechanical advancement and more! We’ve got pizza, burgers, coffee and even plants. Let’s get started with some fresh pizza!
Credit: CBS Evening News
Zume is a partially automated pizza restaurant/factory? I’ll take you from start to finish ensuring you understand the process. First you order a pizza on their online store. The employees then work together with the robots to assemble the pizza along a conveyor belt. Once the pizza is finished it is placed into a biodegradable box which will also keep the pizza fresh. They currently deliver pizza the same way as other companies although they do route each delivery so that it can arrive as fast as possible. In the future even that will be replaced with the pizza truck they’re developing which can cook pizza with its ovens while it drives towards deliveries. The way that this works is that the pizzas in the oven are cooked when the GPS software connected to the oven calculate that they are the ideal distance from the destination. They call this cooking en route or baking on the way. They also claim it’s healthier than competitors and cheaper to produce.
Plant Power Fast Food
Here is a company that has developed fruits and vegetables from a vegan diet into a form of fast food aiming to create a healthier alternative to modern fast food.
Here is a review by Brian Turner (check him out on Youtube):
Credit: Brian Turner
This coffee shop is unlike what you may be used to at a Starbucks. Instead of a clerk you would talk to you can order from a kiosk (or your phone) and then a robotic arm will swing around, make your coffee and place it into a compartment where you grab it.
This company takes automation to the next step. Featuring a host of kiosks inside you order from a selection of quinoa bowels and drinks and then wait at a large monitor over an array of cubbies. The monitor displays everyone’s orders and will notify you when yours is ready. An interesting feature the cubbies have is that the glass in front of them is actually an LCD screen which will flash your name when your food is ready as well. The food, according to them, only takes a few minutes per each order allowing it to compete with other fast food companies.
A San Fran company specializing in burger automation would like to take over the market of automation as well. They have claimed that they are capable of producing 400 burgers an hour. These are fully customizable and pre-packaged automatically while freeing up more room for the people. The interesting thing is that they aren’t new. They had demonstrated their technology back in 2012 but only now are opening a restaurant so we’ll keep our eye on them for now.
Credit: Automated Foodservice
Would you like a nostalgic burger from our past? Say around 1964? Would you like a person or a machine to make it? I found this video while going through similar videos on automation and I was quite surprised to see automation being used over 50 years ago! The manner in which this device operates is fairly typical from what you would expect today. The orders are programmed into a computer (click button) and the machine can cook up to 400 burgers in 1 hour (see above for obvious similarities). It also focused on French fries, chicken, hot dogs, seafood, onion rings, milkshakes and sodas as well since they ran a general fast food restaurant. The company behind it, American Machine and Foundry, were a company best known for running bowling alleys and produced the technology to make them automated. They also diversified into a number of transportation vehicles such as bikes and boats. One reason for the failure of the system seems to be their maintenance costs but another more important reason was that the benefits didn’t outweigh the cost of keeping a regular staff.
Minimum Wage: Is it causing automation?
To wrap up the subject I’ll bring up a social issue. There is a current wave of protests and demonstrations in the world aimed at increasing the minimum wage, $7.25. The one centered in the United States aims to increase the amount from $7.25 to $15. If you are not from the U.S. just know that this amount is only the federal wage. States have a degree of autonomy in the country and local minimums range from 9 to 10, 12 or 15 as has happened in Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco. While this differs in when it is employed, who it applies to and what level qualifies (city, township or state level) it has become a trend throughout parts of the country to increase it. It is also worth mentioning that while some Democratic leaders prefer it the Republicans decidedly do not. This is where the crux of the problem unfolds. Business owners are concerned that if the wages are raised they will lose profits and be forced to close. Republicans, usually on the side of larger businesses, have a policy of lowering taxes (which doesn’t always happen and occasionally goes the other way) especially for businesses and reducing government intrusion into the business world. Their argument is that by reducing these restrictions on businesses that the free market will prosper and grow which is why they don’t want the minimum wage to increase. They’d prefer the businesses take care of it and decide wages.
While there is still a debate and neither side has been proven to be vindicated in their positions entirely, another argument has been bubbling to the surface for a reason I find laughable. One argument has been that, if the government raises wages, restaurants will have to consider replacing their workers with robots. This stems from the fact that fast food employees are usually paid as little as possible since they don’t have marketable skills. Now that you know all this I’ll move to the robots. I’m not going to take a position on the minimum wage here because my site is to present these new ideas and not comment on socio-political issues. The idea that robots are replacing humans now due to the minimum wage increase is absurd. It may increase the probability of choosing robots as workers but robots have been replacing us before $10/hour was argued for.
Before the minimum wage, factory workers across the entire country were replaced for cheaper labor with China being the main example. The other option was to phase out workers performing routine tasks with robot that could do it cheaper. But if this was the case wouldn’t restaurants be the next ideal location? Sheetz, Wawa and Rutter’s, popular gas stations in Pennsylvania and along the eastern seaboard are excellent examples of this. Increasingly, they have begun to act in their capacity as small restaurants similar to fast food venues. The way they do this is using a small kitchen with a similar staff of any Burger King or Wendy’s. The difference is in ordering. There are no people. You select orders from a touchscreen which displays a variety of options and then prints out a receipt that you’ll take to a clerk to pay for. This step has been automated for years now and a logical next step would be the kitchen. The above examples I have shown you are also related in no way to the minimum wage argument. Jobs with limited to no specialized experience will always eventually be phased out in some way to cut down on costs. It’s just logical to squeeze more money out of a company.
This brings me to the finale. If you read all that gibberish up there, go take a break for an hour. What you need to understand is that increased wages won’t cause automation. McDonald’s is replacing their workers, $15/hour or $1/hour. You are replaceable because you cost more than the machines. Higher wages will only influence automation. But it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It only results in problems because these larger companies do not see people. They see numbers. If that’s not the happiest way to end an article I don’t know what is! I guess the takeaway is…………become a mechanic? The future is marching towards the present everyday people, be prepared.
Bonus: I have two other articles that show this trend as well and I’ll include them here too.
Flippy, a burger flipping robot:
Credit: Miso Robotics
Moley Robotics Kitchen
The Moley Robotics Kitchen, an automated home kitchen that cooks for you:
Credit: Moley Robotics
For more articles related to technology go to Mechanical Menagerie and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!
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