Can CIOs Lower Costs By Hiring More Robots?

As company's try to cut their costs, CIOs may step in with more robots to help out
As company’s try to cut their costs, CIOs may step in with more robots to help out
Image Credit: e-lame

Let’s face it – companies are under more pressure than ever to do more and provide their customers with a better shopping experience. There are only so many ways that this kind of increased level of service can be provided and hiring more workers, while one solution, often turns out to be too expensive for most companies. This means that they have to go looking for a better solution. This is when the CIO is provided with an opportunity use their understanding of the importance of information technology to step in and determine if there are specific jobs within the company that perhaps could be performed by robots in order to help the company boost customer satisfaction while lowering labor costs.

Say Hello To The Robots

A good example of a company that needs to find ways to delight its customers while at the same time lowering its operating costs is Walmart. Walmart is trying to control their labor costs while at the same time raising wages in order to attract more workers in a tight job market. The Walmart CIO has been tasked with taking a look at how their stores operate in order to determine if there might an opportunity to start to use more robots in their stores. Currently, the thinking is that robots could be used to clean floors, help with the monitoring of store inventories, and unloading delivery trucks.

The Walmart CIO has grand plans for how robots can be worked into the company’s operations. Walmart is looking to add robots to its operations in order to scan shelves looking for products that are out-of-stock. Realizing that clean floors have a big impact on how their stores look, Walmart is planning on deploying robots to scrub the floors at 1,500 stores in order to speed up cleaning. This is being done after Walmart tested the floor cleaning robots in hundreds of stores in the past. Walmart is also looking to start to use conveyor belts that will be able to automatically scan and sort products as they are unloaded from delivery trucks. These are already in service today, but the store plans on expanding their use to 1,200 locations.

One of the key reasons that Walmart is interested in using more robots in their stores is that they believe that it will help them to reduce their costs. Walmart believes that adding a single machine can often cut a few hours out of a day of work that would otherwise be done by a human worker. This may permit Walmart to allocate fewer people to complete a given task. Considering that Walmart operates 4,600 stores, any savings like this can turn out to be a big deal. Walmart’s goal is to allow their workers to have more time to work on other tasks while at the same time allowing the store to hire people to work in growing areas such as their e-commerce operations.

How Hiring More Robots Changes The World

What the Walmart CIO understands is that the company is currently engaged in a battle with Amazon. Walmart wants to find ways to better serve more of their customers who have started to buy products online. In order to meet this new need, Walmart has hired 40,000 additional workers to pick groceries off of their shelves in order to fulfill online orders. At the same time in order to compete better, Walmart is raising wages, boosting employee training, and buying e-commerce companies. Currently store employees spend between 2 to 3 hours per day using manual machines to clean the floors in stores. Using robots can free these workers up. Additionally, automatic conveyor belts allow Walmart to reduce the numbers of workers needed to unload a truck by half.

Walmart’s view of the use of robots is that it allows them to both take away jobs that their workers do not enjoy doing while at the same time opening up new jobs for them to do in other parts of the store. One of the key areas where Walmart is hoping to use robots has to do with how they interact with customers who have ordered products online. Because there are so many of these types of customers, Walmart wants to start to use robots to allow these customers to pick up orders without having to interact with workers.

One of the problems that the person with the Walmart CIO job is trying to solve is that Walmart employs a large number of low-skilled workers. It is becoming harder and harder for Walmart to get the workforce that they require in order to staff their stores. The person in Walmart’s CIO position doesn’t see the use of additional robots so much as a cost saving tool; rather, they are being viewed as a way to free up workers so that they can then perform other higher value tasks. Robots can almost be viewed as being partners to the store’s employees. The use of robots is one way for Walmart to deal with rising labor costs while at the same time helping it to retain the workers that it does have.

What All Of This Means For You

The robots are coming! The robots are coming! Modern companies are looking for ways to better serve their customers and providing higher levels of customer service is one way to do this. However, in order to provide their customers with better service they need to hire more workers and that can quickly drive costs up. What firms really want to do is to find ways that they can do more work while at the same time keeping a lid on their costs. It turns out that the company’s CIO just might have the solution and that’s why so many companies are starting to deploy robots.

Walmart is an excellent example of a company that is currently looking to find out how they can use more robots to run their stores. They are thinking about using robots to perform basic tasks such as cleaning floors, unloading trucks, and monitoring their inventory. Walmart has been using robots to clean their floors and they are now ready to roll these robots out to all 4,600 of their stores. Walmart wants to reduce their costs. Walmart believes that robots can free up their human workers so that they can spend their time doing other things. Walmart is competing with Amazon and wants to do a better job delivering products that have been ordered online. Robots will allow them to reduce the number of workers that they need to perform specific tasks. Walmart wants to use robots, not humans, to deliver products to customers who have ordered them online. Walmart sees robots as a way to perform low skilled tasks which will free workers up to do other types of jobs.

There can be no doubt that robots are coming. These mechanical marvels are becoming smarter and smarter and are starting to be able to take over tasks that once were only able to be performed by humans. It is the job of the CIO to take a look at all of the different things that a company’s employees are doing and identify what tasks a robot could perform. Once the robot has been placed into position and is performing the task, it then becomes the CIOs job to determine what tasks the displaced workers can now perform. No, the robots won’t be taking over every job, but they can help out and the company can become more competitive with them on board.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that people should work alongside robots or should robots work by themselves?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

All CIOs understand that if they are going to help their companies become more successful, then they are going to have to find ways to introduce new technology into how the company performs its processes. It turns out that in China CIOs are under a great deal of pressure to successfully accomplish this task in order to help their firms and their country achieve national goals. How are Chinese CIOs going to pull their companies forward using the latest technology?