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Robots could be invading your local Walmart store

(BUSINESS NEWS) No, it’s not another conspiracy theory, but you could soon see robots at your local Walmart. These new robots have one clear task: increase efficiency.

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Automation of tasks has become commonplace. From automating email responses, to pre-loading social media posts, we’ve become a world obsessed with efficiency, saving time, and organization. Businesses are no different; most businesses are continually searching for the next big thing in technology that will save time, money, or energy (and preferably all three).

Walmart is not exception; they have launched a rather large scale, test initiative to determine if shelf-scanning robots will increase efficiency in their stores.

Shelf-scanning robots are already common-place in warehouses and storage facilities (Amazon uses nearly 50,000 Kiva robots to keep up with their inventory), but Walmart is among the first retailers to choose to use this technology in-store.

Their shelf-scanning robots are manufactured by Bossa Nova Robotics in California, and are approximately two-feet tall and equipped with an extendable tower that contains lights and sensors that enable the robot to scan shelves.

The robots are docked in charging stations until a human employee deploys them on a “mission;” checking aisles to see what needs to be re-stocked, scanning for pricing errors, or locating items that have been placed in the wrong area.

Walmart made it clear that the robots will not lead to job losses, but rather, it will save employees from carrying out tasks that are “repeatable, predictable, and manual,” according to their statement. They also state that employees repeatedly mention in meetings that checking shelves is one of the least favorite tasks and the introduction of robots could not only improve efficiency, but morale as well.

Whether or not this will hold true in the long run, remains to be seen; while robots may not result in any immediate lay-offs, it could possibly result in a decrease in hiring, as robots can pick up the slack.

In a statement to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, John Crecelius, Walmart’s Vice President of Central Operations, stated, “If you think about trying to go through a facility with all these different [products] and figure out if your prices are accurate [across the board], it can be very time-consuming. From our perspective, when you’re doing things like this, you’re trying to improve your service to your customers and trying to make things simpler and easier for your associates at the same time.”

“If you are running up and down the aisle and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well, and they don’t like it,” Jeremy King, Chief Technology Officer for Walmart U.S. and e-commerce, told Reuters.

Also, if you consider, robots are nearly 50 percent more efficient that humans and can scan shelves nearly three times faster, using robots to automate this task, really makes sense, in theory. So long as these robots are used to supplement human workers and not replace them, I think Walmart could see an increase in both efficiency and morale; what do you think? Is Walmart making a good decision by deploying this technology, or could workers lose their jobs in the long run?

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

Business News

How eBay can survive the Amazon era

(BUSINESS NEWS) eBay has long been an ecommerce powerhouse, but Amazon is now most folks’ first stop – how can eBay survive?

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While some of us are still lamenting the eBay-PayPal Break Up from three years ago, focus has shifted to the stock battle between the two brands of late, while most are wondering – how long does eBay even have as Amazon sucks all of the oxygen out of the room?

The ecommerce giant faces some heavy competition from Amazon and other online retailers and needs to reinvent its image if it’s going to thrive. Barely a year ago, nearly 15 percent more sellers were listing products on both ecommerce sites, but the trend towards Amazon has accelerated rapidly. The competition is even more messy given that eBay is very likely about to sue Amazon for poaching sellers.

How eBay moves forward will have a lot to do with how it rebrands itself. They have a huge marketplace, and unlike Amazon, they don’t continually put sellers in a position of peril. eBay represents an opportunity for big brands to sell not only on their own websites, but through a trusted, well-established seller who has been around for a long time (as summarized by ChannelAdvisor).

The brand has a number of woes to overcome to work with retailers, especially as Amazon boasts an impressive search engine optimization and is many people’s first stop shop. And Amazon’s reputation is, well forgive the joke, in Prime health – whereas some sellers still pass up Amazon to sell the slightly-attractive-but-isn’t-our-aesthetic dishes received as an inheritance or gift (despite the fact nearly 81 percent of items sold on eBay are brand new).

And the start of fixing that image is better marketing, and emphasizing what their strengths are, most notably:

  • eBay has a stronger global presence, and is in over 25 countries.
  • The relationship with sellers is much more positive – eBay is essentially a platform and a partner, an online storefront.
  • It’s much cheaper for sellers to sell than on Amazon (although it offers much less in terms of services).
  • You have more control over your brand than with Amazon, as again, it’s not competing with you.
  • The conversation around eBay is ongoing, and how the company appeals to large retailers and develops this brand is something sellers will be monitoring, because colorful tv ad campaigns won’t be enough to keep them afloat.

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Price-predictable subscription to legal help for startups

(BUSINESS) Startups in growth mode need extra help, and legal services is not where successful companies cut corners. Check out this subscription option for your growing company.

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If you’re running your own business or are planning to start one, legal help is probably low on your list.

Most of us have access to free resources from your local Chamber of Commerce or state website, or may have a “friend” who can help you with the forms and other things.

For a lot of things, a DIY attitude won’t cost you much. You could float your own drywall for example. But when it comes to the law, you must trust an expert. Trying to cut corners on legal expenses can cost you a lot in terms of liability or lead to a few headaches, disputes, and litigations. And even if it didn’t cost money, it will cost you time.

Fortunately, you may not have to pay a lawyer directly, as there are several online solutions, including LegalZoom or LegalShield that can help you with forms, provide advice or help you get your business started. Legal advice could cost you hundreds per hour, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Although online legal services are available, one thing that may be challenging for startups is that it can be difficult to budget for: cost transparency isn’t always available and it may be contingent on demand, time and resources.

Atrium is legal firm specifically designed for startups. This firm was founded by Twitch founder Justin Kan, and Silicon Valley lawyer, Augie Rakow in response to what his needs were as a startup: fast, reliable, and transparent services.

To date, Atrium boasts 890 completed startup deals; $5B raised by companies, and 10 companies started by it’s members. Atrium breaks down its services into four areas:

Atrium Counsel – which provides standard day to day legal processes, including board meetings, NDS, contract/personnel review, etc. – this is available as a subscription service or if you have unique needs, there are special projects available.
Atrium Financing – to help work with venture capital transactions and help explain the deal and it’s process, including upfront price estimates for advice with pitches.
Atrium Contracts – to help with contract review and form generations.
Atrium Blockchain – to help provide legal advice on the many regulatory issues involving blockchain issues.

Atrium’s major competitive advantage is the end of the billable hour paradigm and the focus on subscription models. This is great for a startup in growth mode because you can get a lot of value for a fixed price.

That said, Vitality CEO, Jamie Davidson said, “Just had a call with these folks. You pay a minimum of $1K a month (based on your company size) to be able to ask them questions. You then pay above-market prices for actual legal needs, like privacy policy/TOS generation ($5K), GDPR ($10+K), etc. Our current lawyer does not charge me to ask him questions, but he does charge for actual legal work.”

Others have noted Atrium’s technological advantage and expertise, so mileage could vary.

If you find that community resources aren’t available or not meeting your needs, Atrium could be the service that helps take you to the next level. If you’re considering shopping for legal services, check out Atrium’s site, get to know their team, and see if it’s the right fit for you. The bottom line is that there are a lot of places to cut corners for your growing business, but legal services are not one of them.

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Business News

Courts to decide if ‘overqualified’ is being used as a code word for ‘too old’ to hire?

(BUSINESS) Many have long held that job seekers are told they are “overqualified” when some employers mean they’re just too old and they’ll carry higher cost and leave quickly. The court system is considering this contentious topic as we speak.

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According to AARP, “age discrimination in the workplace is alive and well.” But a case before the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago questions whether older job applicants can sue for certain biased recruiting practices.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the case “raises a critical question about whether job applicants can pursue” a lawsuit raising the argument whether the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects external job applicants.

Therefore, the question is, does 'overqualified' truly mean an applicant doesn't have the right qualifications, or is it a code word for someone being too old to hire?Click To Tweet

The case is Kleber v. CareFusion Corp digs into this challenge. Dale Kleber applied for a position with CareFusion. The job description asked for “3 to 7 years (no more than 7 years) of relevant legal experience.” Kleber had decades of experience, after all he was 58. The company never even interviewed him.

They ultimately hired a 29-year-old to fill the position. CareFusion insists that Kleber’s age had nothing to do with him not being considered for the role. Kleber argues that “overqualified” is a code word for “too old.”

The case has been working its way through the courts. The first judge dismissed the claim, ruling that the statue doesn’t cover external applicants, but that decision was reversed on appeal by a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit which stated it “could not imagine” that Congress intended to only protect internal applicants from age discrimination.

CareFusion was given a rehearing in front of the full court in September. Depending on their ruling, the case could go before the U.S. Supreme Court.

What does this mean for you?

This case is just one of many that attorneys are filing with various courts. There is a case in Arizona in which two firefighters, the oldest in the district, were let go due to their age. Age discrimination could affect anyone, because everyone eventually becomes eligible. The courts are conflicted over the types of protection offered by the ADEA, but it’s also difficult to prove when age discrimination has occurred.

For small business owners, it’s imperative that you look at your hiring practices. Think about your recruiting practices. Do you simply look for talent at your local college? You miss valuable talent if you’re not looking at older applicants, and people are working well into their 70s these days, no longer retiring early. Think about the connections and experience an older team member could bring to the job.

If you (or your company) refuse to care about any of those things, fine. But consider this – based on the results of this and other lawsuits, you could be opening your business to being sued if you overlook age in the recruiting and hiring process.

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