Saturday, November 7, 2015

Automate Away Dem Jobs

I saw this frontpage article on MyPaper the other day, but I didn't manage to pump out an article for it immediately. I can't say that I didn't see this coming.

Recently I was at a McDonald's and I also saw these machines. I know that they have been around at City Hall for quite a while, but I guess after doing some testing and refinement, they have decided to expand the roll-out of these machines. That particular McDonald's only had 2 staff manning a physical counter, while the rest of the counter space have been modified to be a pick-up station. Instead of the usually 4-6 counter POS to place orders, there were the 2 staff each with a POS and about 6 machines. Impressive reduction in manpower.

Customers at Ikea and some supermarket chains might have also seen and used the self-checkout facilities there as well. However, their model differs slightly by having a staff monitor several self-checkout stations and help to troubleshoot.

If you ask me, the rollout of machines that collect cash are pretty darn unnecessary. As a "first-world" country, we are really really shit in our contactless payments. In certain places in Europe, nobody carries around any substantial amount of cash with them. Perhaps a random 20 Euro note. Almost everything can be paid by PIN and it is paid by PIN (similar to our version of NETS). It's amazing how every person has an EZ-link card, but yet they can dumbfounded by other contactless machines. Blows my mind every single time. In a very bad way.

Anyway, I see this shift to machine cashiers to be a positive thing. Cashiers no longer need to be burdened with the shitty responsibility of looking after and being accountable for the cash in their register since they no longer handle the cash.

Overall, I am excited to see a more massive rollout of these self-checkout systems. It reduces manpower costs and it also forces companies to simplify and streamline their offerings to be easy enough for self-navigation. I still think that in the infancy stages, it is crucial to still have normal cashiers for the technophobes and luddites who still write letters under candlelight with ink feathers in their mud huts. Am I being sarcastic? Very much so. But in all seriousness, it is important to have an actual human being who is able to handle a larger breadth of problems. Machines to tackle the 90% bulk of the workload with are repetitive and uncomplicated, while a human to troubleshoot and solve the 10% of issues which are too complex. For those supply chain fanatics, think of it as something similar to ABC stock classification.

Now, with that underway, do you know what is the next thing we need to improve?

Our fucking queue system.

Only airline check-in counters (MQMSP) and banks (SQMSP) have managed to pull their heads out of their butts to have queue systems which make sense. It still baffles me why Singapore is by and large in the SQSSP dark ages. It speaks a lot about the ingrained collective beliefs of luck and selfishess as opposed to efficiency and fairness.

The day I walk into a fast food restaurant or a toilet where people queue based on SQMSP, is the day that I think Singapore is finally a first-world country.

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