Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Walmart announced Monday it's adding shelf-scanning robots in 650 stores nationwide in an effort to free up its associates to do more specialized work and focus on customers.
"The technology handles tasks that are repeatable and predictable – like scanning shelves for out-of-stocks – allowing associates to focus on serving customers and addressing areas of the store with the most need," said Ragan Dickens, director of corporate communications for Walmart. "We truly look at these robots as assistants to the associates and their jobs."
Without these fast-moving pods, robotic arms and other forms of warehouse automation, retailers say they wouldn't be able to fulfill consumer demand for packages that can land on doorsteps the day after you order them online.
"Each implemented innovation is removing more and more of the mundane work such as scanning shelfs, checking prices, cleaning floors or unloading trucks and thus allowing our associates more time to serve and sell to our customers," Dickens added.
As Thomas Sowell once famously observed, "the real minimum wage is always $0."
To be clear, this is not only in response to the increase in minimum wage around the country. Businesses have always moved towards automation to fulfill their customer's needs. In an age of growing consumer demand for quick delivery, Walmart, like many others, is moving towards ways to faster meet their customer's needs.
It's not always a bad thing when businesses hire mechanical employees. To think so would outweigh the obvious benefits seen by the automation of farming, and many parts of the manufacturing industry.
Of course, it's hard to see such a company like Walmart making this move without considering potential effects of the constant push for higher pay.
One thing remains unchanged: the minimum wage does not dictate that the value of an employee will actually meet the value dictated by the law. The value of any employee is dictated by the value of the products they are working to sell. In the case of Walmart, people expect things at a cheap price. The problem faced by Walmart, and it's consumers, is that it's brand is built on goods sold at a cheap price. Of course, that cheap price comes at a cost. It means that the value of their labor is somewhat capped, regardless of the work put in by the employees.
In a country where politicians are constantly clamoring for a raise in the minimum wage, Walmart is faced with only a few options. Either raise the price of all of their goods, keep the wages and prices the same, or find a way to provide the same (or more) products at a cheaper price. They've chosen the later. We will now be victims of the "unseen." How many jobs will no longer exist? How many less people will be making the higher wage? These are the questions that rarely get asked, but they deserve our attention.
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