Competing with Robots (Look to QuadTech and Valpak)
The topic was inventory management. Customers were frustrated, the folks from Sales were upset, and managers were gathered around throwing out ideas to make our information more accurate and available.
“Why don’t we just hire a couple of guys to get us answers quickly?” asked one manager.
“Don’t we have an inventory module in Printstream, our MIS system?” asked another.
“We do, but it’s not doing the job” came the answer.
I had a flashback to Eliyahu Goldratt’s novelized management guide “The Goal,” first published back in the ‘80s. How could we still be having this discussion in 2013?
Technology has been making businesses more efficient since the dawn of time, but our relationship with it is, as it ever was, troubled and troubling. Technology can be labor-saving, or labor-enhancing, but where tasks and functions and people fall along that line can be a razor’s edge. It’s easy to be cut, both literally and figuratively.
As a 32-year-old planning on living and working for some time, I’ve naturally developed a healthy fear of being replaced by a robot. There must be some technical term for this, but I have not found it. I’d much rather make use of the robots, than be replaced by one. I, along with about 300 other people vaguely my age, travel from all over the country 44 weeks out of the year to attend The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business to improve my chances.
Google has self-driving cars; robots perform surgery and diagnose disease. And for a powerfully disconcerting visual of the soulless future of some workplaces, check out Amazon’s massive new fulfillment center in the English Midlands. A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute concludes that machine replacement of job categories will include knowledge work many thought would long be protected. In wealth management, Wealthfront.com offers educated investors sophisticated portfolio management at 1/8 of the cost of traditional firms.