The fast food industry seems ripe for automation. Most of the tasks involved fall into the general category of dirty, dull, or dangerous work, and few require specialized skills or human creativity. The pandemic led to lots of job losses in this field, and workers are in no hurry to come back to the jobs they lost. 60% of fast food bosses in a recent survey said that they can’t hire enough workers to cover their needs, and have cut back on hours or services in response.
What’s more, the human beings who are willing to work in fast food restaurants want to be paid more — enough more to make automation cost-effective. Fast food workers have been earning about $18,000 a year, less than the cost of a robot. They’re no longer willing to work for that amount. At $15 an hour, the amount fast food workers demand, human workers now cost more than a robot.
Robots can now do the job
What has prevented automation in fast food up till now? Cost has been part of the equation, certainly, but robots haven’t really been up to the task in the past. There have been proof of concept experiments, but actually cooking has been beyond the capacity of robots.
Automation hit fast food restaurants only in order-taking.
The most famous fast food robot is Flippy, a robot that was able to flip burger patties, but not to form them or to put lettuce on the burger after it was cooked or any other step in the job. Now, the makers of Flippy have new versions that can do more.
Another step forward
What’s more, Miso, the Flippy makers, have a new partnership with Amazon that is a game-changer. Working with AWS RoboMaker allows Miso to manage far more simulations than they could in the past. More simulations means much faster product development.
That means that the folks at Miso can create a machine that can reproduce a specific food item — an iconic burger or consistent fries, for example — in a practical amount of time.
Chris Kruger, CTO of Miso Robotics, says, “We will go from running 12 simulations a month with single units to doing 100 in a night. By testing hundreds of configurations in parallel, we are able to save costs and develop products faster.”
The case study will be presented at Amazon Re-MARS, a robotics trade show taking place later this month.
What about the workers?
Disruption for workers in the fast food space is probably inevitable — but one could argue that this industry has already been disrupted. That might not be a bad thing. Fast food, like coal mining, may be an industry that could benefit from disruption.
Meanwhile, if you need service or support for your Indramat motion control systems, contact us first. We are Indramat specialists, and we can get you back up and running fast.