Robot Wars in China; Burger Flipping Robots Serve 360 Gourmet Burgers an Hour

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With increasing frequency I see articles on how robots are taking jobs once held by humans. Typically I batch a few of them up for comments, and I have a new set now.

Last week, on the manufacturing front I reported “Baxter” the Robot Out to Get Your Minimum-Wage, No Benefits, Part-Time Job, Because He’s Still Much Cheaper; Fed Cannot Win a Fight Against Robots.

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Alpha the Custom Burger Flipping Robot

Here is a similar story in the service industry to consider: Robot Serves Up 360 Hamburgers Per Hour

Alpha machine from Momentum Machines cooks up a tasty burger with all the fixins. And it does it with such quality and efficiency it’ll produce “gourmet quality burgers at fast food prices.”

With a conveyor belt-type system the burgers are freshly ground, shaped and grilled to the customer’s liking. And only when the burger’s finished cooking does Alpha slice the tomatoes and pickles and place them on the burger as fresh as can be. Finally, the machine wraps the burger up for serving.

Alpha churns out a painless 360 hamburgers per hour. Saving money with Alpha is pretty easy to imagine. You don’t even need cashiers or servers. Customers could just punch in their order, pay, and wait at a dispensing window.

For their next model Momentum Machines plans on adding a custom meat grinding feature so it can mix different meats – 1/3 pork, 2/3 bison sounds like a tasty combo – in the same burger. They’ll also give it gourmet cooking abilities that seasoned chefs use such as charring the burger while retaining its juiciness.

The company plans on launching the first ever restaurant chain with a cook staff made entirely of robots. But not only might we soon find Alpha’s creations at local burger joints, but the company is also targeting convenience stores, food trucks, and somehow even vending machines.

Robot Wars in China

China Daily reports Chinese robot wars set to erupt

Recent research conducted by the consultancy Ernst & Young LLP suggests that the average annual labor cost per worker rose to more than 40,000 yuan ($6,400) in 2011, from less than 25,000 yuan five years ago.

Given the context, it’s easy to calculate the tradeoffs of getting a robot. “In fact, industrial robots are already cheaper than workers in China’s eastern regions,” said Wang Tianmiao, who heads the expert panel of robot technology under the State High-Tech Development Plan.

Wang said a typical industrial robot costs around 300,000 yuan and has annual maintenance costs of 20,000 yuan. The total layout of 500,000 yuan over 10 years is considerably less than that for a 6,000-yuan-a-month technician, and robots can work three times more efficiently.

Technology Kills Middle-Class Jobs

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Yahoo! News reports Recession, tech kill middle-class jobs.

Five years after the start of the Great Recession, the toll is terrifyingly clear: Millions of middle-class jobs have been lost in developed countries the world over.

And the situation is even worse than it appears.

Most of the jobs will never return, and millions more are likely to vanish as well, say experts who study the labor market. What’s more, these jobs aren’t just being lost to China and other developing countries, and they aren’t just factory work. Increasingly, jobs are disappearing in the service sector, home to two-thirds of all workers.

They’re being obliterated by technology.

Year after year, the software that runs computers and an array of other machines and devices becomes more sophisticated and powerful and capable of doing more efficiently tasks that humans have always done. For decades, science fiction warned of a future when we would be architects of our own obsolescence, replaced by our machines; an Associated Press analysis finds that the future has arrived.

“There’s no sector of the economy that’s going to get a pass,” says Martin Ford, who runs a software company and wrote “The Lights in the Tunnel,” a book predicting widespread job losses. “It’s everywhere.”

The numbers startle even labor economists. In the United States, half the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession were in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. But only 2 percent of the 3.5 million jobs gained since the recession ended in June 2009 are in midpay industries. Nearly 70 percent are in low-pay industries, 29 percent in industries that pay well.

Experts warn that this “hollowing out” of the middle-class workforce is far from over. They predict the loss of millions more jobs as technology becomes even more sophisticated and reaches deeper into our lives.

The most vulnerable workers are doing repetitive tasks that programmers can write software for — an accountant checking a list of numbers, an office manager filing forms, a paralegal reviewing documents for key words to help in a case. As software becomes even more sophisticated, victims are expected to include those who juggle tasks, such as supervisors and managers — workers who thought they were protected by a college degree.

Seemingly, there is no end to this. Software robots handle voice activated queries and mechanical robots replace humans in manufacturing.

If a job is repetitive and programmable, a robot is out to get it. That even includes minimum wage jobs in manufacturing and in food service.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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avatarMike 'Mish' Shedlock - Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis posted Monday, February 4th, 2013.

1 Comment for “Robot Wars in China; Burger Flipping Robots Serve 360 Gourmet Burgers an Hour”

  1. Yet another case to be made against globalization. When production and consumption are more localized, the qualities that make people human exist at higher levels of involvement, and at any rate economies of scale don’t ramp to the point where hi-tech automation can be justified.

    This is an unbelievably fascinating video that shows how massive industrial factory farming has actually been working against the goals of sustainable, environmentally friendly and continually increasing levels of food production:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhVWNwCRpKg&feature=youtu.be

    However, by far the greatest number of jobs lost in the US since 2001 have not been taken by machines, but by plant and factory relocation.

    The few simplistic, tunnel-vision economists still existing who defend the incomprehensible stupidity of globalization under the dishonest mantra of “Free Trade is Always Good” (even when it’s clear your trading partners are conducting mercantilist driven, economic warfare against you) might, but no doubt won’t, benefit from a perusal of:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-01-26/end-era

    Some excerpts:

    “The compounding mistake [of the West]…was a wide-eyed belief that ‘globalization’ would make everyone richer, when the reality was that the out-sourcing of production to emerging economies was a SELF-INFLICTED DISASTER WITH FEW PARALLES IN ECONOMIC HISTORY.

    Corporations’ outsourcing of production to emerging economies boosted their earnings (and, consequently, the incomes of the minority at the very top) while hollowing out their domestic economies through the export of skilled jobs.

    Skilled, well-paid jobs had been exported, consumption had increased, and ever-greater quantities of debt had been used to fill the gap. This was, by any definition, unsustainable. Talk of Western economies modernizing themselves by moving from production into services always contained FAR MORE WAFFLE THAN LOGIC.

    Corporate executives prospered, as did the gate-holders of the debt economy, while the vast majority saw their real wages decline, their jobs disappear and their indebtedness spiral. Reducing production, increasing consumption and taking on escalating debt to fill the gap was never a remotely sustainable course of action.”

    From the start, irresponsible and deceptive economic commentators in a position to influence public opinion in favor of global free trade have actually only had their eyes on the benefits that could accrue to themselves, while totally unconcerned about the tragedy of millions of American jobs lost and the subsequent destruction of families and shattering of communities it has led to—not to mention transformation of the United States into a debt-riddled basket case in free-fall decline.

    Defending free trade with the argument that it has lifted the living standards of many in the developing world is tantamount to saying that it’s good for American workers to surrender their jobs to those in nations with despotic and corrupt governments that do not possess the competence or will to work toward managing this outcome for themselves—so we need to do it for them, while strengthening their kleptocracies.

    However, I no longer care because although I lost my job to outsourcing, I don’t need to work or pay taxes, and fortunately we can still take the money from public education and other less worthy causes to pay for my new life on the dole.

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