Amazon Opening Up Grocery Stores With No Cashiers
Amazon is a fresh off a win against unionization in one of its locations in Alabama. Even though the results are being contested, whatever happens, will make little difference.
Messing with Amazon is not going to result in more secure jobs. It is that simple. This company is at the forefront of automating their systems to reduce employment as much as possible. This is a company that has a goal to have automation from order to delivery. That means no humans, union or otherwise.
We might about to see some of this progress.
There is no doubt the grocery business is ripe for disruption. It is a low margin business yet one that is vital for people. Thus, if a company can automate the process, it will either lead to healthier profits or reduced costs. At the same time, it might enhance the shopping experience for people.
According to Bloomberg, there is a new grocery store going into Brookfield, CT. The owner of the store is a secret with nobody revealing the name. However, it does not take too much investigation to figure out who is behind this.
Plans show that the layout is similar to the Amazon Fresh locations which are already popping up throughout the country.
Planning documents for a store under construction in Brookfield, Connecticut, contain all the hallmarks of an Amazon Fresh grocery store: a two-word logo on dark gray panels above the store’s entrance, online order pickup counter and such full-service departments as a butcher. The plans also identify a dozen entry and exit gates as well as ceiling-mounted racks to run wiring to camera arrays, a setup that until now has only appeared in Amazon Go convenience stores.
Amazon is denying this is their store. Instead, they are claiming they are creating thousands of grocery jobs.
This might be the case but that is only because they have no figured out how to automate said jobs. If the presumption of this store is true, it is likely a technology that will be rolled out across the entire country. Amazon stated in the past that they have the initial goal of 3,000 grocery stores.
The company also said at times that it would be willing to license its technology out to its competitors.
So now Amazon is going to potentially eliminate jobs at other grocery chains?
The entire concept is to use technology to eliminate the need for checkout. There is no scanning, self service or by an employee. Instead, one's app is swiped when entering the store and whatever is put in the shopping cart is added up. Upon exiting the store, the total is charged to the person's account.
There are rumors that Amazon is working on technology that will do this simply by reading someone's palm print.
The irony of all this is the timing.
Amazon's union fight make national news. Like most disputes in that arena, things turned ugly. There are accusation of improprieties and calls for a new election.
What is missed in all this is that people are dealing with an entity that has a ton of money and is willing to spend it on R&D. Their goal is automation at every level if they can.
So, while they are one of the leading companies in job creation and new hires, much of this is due to the expansion of their operations. They are building new warehouses and stores at a rapid pace.
The company has 37 more Fresh stores planned to be opened throughout the country. One of the big challenges to cashierless stores is tracking what is done in the stores and ensuring items are properly charged for.
Amazon appears to have solved a significant technical challenge, creating a grab-and-go system that can handle scores of shoppers at once and cover large supermarkets without being prohibitively expensive to build and operate. The breakthrough, if it works, would catapult Amazon ahead of rivals, which are testing similar camera-based technology developed by various startups. Executives at these companies have acknowledged that they are perhaps a year or two away from installing cashierless systems in full-sized supermarkets.
If Amazon can construct and operate this stores without prohibitive expense, this certainly would give it a leg up on the competition. Then the question becomes how quickly can they build these stores?
Of course, another question is what else are they working on? We would have to believe this is just the start of things. We already see other grocery chains using robots to scan shelves for items that are low in stock or mispriced.
It would not be surprising to learn that this company is working on something that is even more advanced than this.
Isn't it interesting that the first picture even shows how they automated the question process in the store. It is safe to imagine kiosks like that will handle most customer service questions. We also could believe that most of the details of where things are likely can be found on the app.
Since we already saw automated floor cleaners in other retail chains, it appears that humans are quickly being relegated to stocking items on shelves and probably unloading the boxes as items come in off the trucks.
We might seriously be only a year or two away from seeing grocery stores with very few employees in them.
If this is effective, bet the ranch others chains will do whatever they can to follow suit.
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