There is growing concern about the impact of automation on employment – or in crude terms – the threat that robots will eat our jobs.
But if you want to see how important robotics and artificial intelligence can be to a business Ocado is a good place to start.
“Without it we simply couldn’t do what we do at this scale,” the online retailer’s chief technology officer Paul Clarke told me. With margins in the supermarket business wafer thin, continually bearing down on costs and waste has been vital.
At its Hatfield distribution centre I got a glimpse of how far the process of automating the sorting of thousands of grocery orders has come. For now, you will struggle to spot a robot – unless you count a machine that inserts plastic shopping bags into crates – but software is doing a very complex job of sending the right goods in the right crates to the right human pickers.
Read it all (video recommended if you have the time).