There are people who worry that automation will lead to widespread unemployment. There are those who figure new technologies always produce more jobs than they destroy. And thee are also people who say that automation increases productivity, profitability, and therefore employment.
The last group should feel good about Instacart. The new C suite at Instacart is going all in on automation, withe the goal of massive growth.
Instacart was exactly what people needed in the pandemic, even if they had never heard of it before. The company went from $8 billion to $39 billion in just about a year.
Instacart lets consumers order groceries online. An army of gig workers then scurry around their location grocery stores, shopping and packing up the groceries. The helpers drop off the groceries. Consumers pick up the goods from their porches and get the chance to thank and tip their helpers.
That’s all going to change. Instacart envisions, instead, robots packing up the shipments in automated fulfillment centers, ready for the human gig workers to pick up and deliver. Human workers might still be needed to chat with customers and look for substitutions, but crowded aisles and long checkout lines will no longer affect profitability.
“Our next-gen fulfillment initiative combines our robust technology suite and dedicated community of shoppers with robotics solutions to give retailers even more innovative ways to compete and serve their customers online.,” is how Instacart puts it.
They’ve partnered with Fabric, a tech company, to work toward a more efficient model that works equally well with consumers and retailers.
The biggest obstacle to Instacart’s ambitions may be that grocery stores could do that, too. Kroger already has plans to install automated warehouses with fleets of refrigerated trucks.
The battle of automation is on!
The result may be a complete refiguration of grocery shopping. If so, it might create new levels of profit and open up new jobs…whatever those might look like.
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