Amazon and the warehouse, you and your job: if it can be automated, it will be automated.

A few days ago I watched the BBC Panorama program “Amazon: The Truth Behind the Click” (I’ve put the iPlayer link up for UK folks but don’t forget it’ll expire soon). For me non of it came as a great surprise, because while I’m happy to click and order my books of choice, with experience in supply chain and micro analysed cost based reduction I know the lengths that companies will go to in order to reduce the bottom line.


The more we click the more we acknowledge that we agree to this system. “I want it cheap and I want it tomorrow”, well what were you expecting?

It’s not just Amazon who are guilty. Think of anything where the price is an issue: supermarkets, cut price airlines and so and you can be safely assured that a squeezed human cost will be involved in order to make our lives all the more happier.

If it can be automated then it will be automated

Think about computer programming – when you drill down to the basics it’s to do one thing, do repetitive tasks. It saves us time doing them (and we’ll get bored and make mistakes in the long run). That’s it, nothing more, nothing less. Okay there’s all the funky stuff afterwards but when it comes down to it then it’s about repetition.

It’s hardly been a silent takeover either, over the last 80 years job growth in the US has declined. And while digital technology has boosted economies it has also ripped the beating heart out of the mid level service sector.  Think about payroll, accounts, bookkeeping, postal work, bank clerks and cashiers are vulnerable. There’s one real conclusion that if it can be automated then it will be automated.

Kiva Systems, the automation robot system used in warehouses, was setup in 2002. It was sold in 2012 for $775m to Amazon. Amazon have plans.

And what is it you do……..?

Think about your job, what you do for a living and then ask yourself this next question seriously, even take a few days to ponder it. “Will my job run the risk of being automated in the next five years?

Even as a computer programmer (not a sexy job title may I add regardless of what others may dress it up as) there’s a pressure to constantly reinvent while gripping onto the past. Luckily for me Java is making good in roads again (thanks the BigData, Android and other JVM related things). Even so I’m constantly having to look five years out and make educated guesses on what’s got longevity.

I agree there is a shortage of computer programmers, I agree that it needs to be taught in schools. The key is also for teaching establishments to be honest and try and figure out what’s going to be relevant by the time the pupils leave.

Without a manufacturing base (yes that can be, and is, automated) we’re left with high paid jobs and low paid jobs and nothing in the middle.

If there’s a time to look forward and reinvent yourself, then it’s probably now.

…the one good thing we’re good at, machines can’t do” (@cimota)



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