A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how continued increases to the minimum wage would help usher in a Robot Revolution. Well, it turns out I was right — and wrong. Recent reports indicate the revolution isn’t coming; it’s already here, ahead of schedule. This does not bode well for the minimum-wage workforce, including hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico and millions more across the United States.
CNET reports fast-food mega giant McDonald’s is hiring 7,000 touch screen interfaces. That’s 7,000 young men and women who will not get their first job at Mickey D’s. My first job was flipping burgers under Ronald McDonald’s watchful gaze. It was a great job, and I learned a lot about organization and how to treat people.
I don’t hold this decision against the fast-food chain. It is a bold but necessary business decision. The cost of hiring, training, and keeping good employees has become increasingly difficult in the new century, and a big part of that is the minimum wage and increasing benefit costs.
The blame for the loss of these 7,000 future jobs falls squarely on the shoulders of those pandering politicians pushing for these increases, and those who support them.
Meanwhile, Lowe’s Innovation Labs is also hiring more direct-sales robots. These standing robots-on-wheels can answer customer questions and even lead customers to the area and shelf in the store where they can find the product they need. It’s not clear how many how many customer service jobs these robots will eliminate in the future as more retail companies follow suit, but we can safely guess it will be in the millions.
Last year, Entrepreneur reported on eight companies that are leading the robot charge in diverse fields, such as agriculture, food service, environmental research, rehabilitation, and manufacturing. At what point will the 24-hour-a-day, no-benefits robot cost less and be more efficient than the $1-per-hour, or even $1-per-day, employees overseas?
Politicians are loath to avert a crisis. So much of politics is responding to or creating a crisis, and then swooping in like a superhero to fix the problem. That won’t work this time. Regardless of whether your support or oppose robots taking over the most mundane jobs, and perhaps even more complicated ones further down the line, a major, fundamental, irreversible shift is occurring in the business world.
Those who don’t see it coming will be run down and forgotten.