Many Australian tech households are now ordering groceries online, despite the lockdowns continuing across Australia. Coles and Woolworths are Australia’s two largest supermarkets. They have been racing to adopt new technology and change labour. Arrangements in order to keep up with the egrocery boom.
Both companies investing in smart warehousing systems and distribution systems that can be automate to various degrees. They also make extensive use of app-driven gig employees for grocery pick up and delivery. Through platforms like Uber and Airtasker.
According to my research, a redesign of Australia’s supermarket is underway. Coles and Woolworths will be follow by others. The pair are Australia’s largest private sector. Employers and their current moves could accelerate the trend towards precarious and on-demand labour.
Collaboration With Large Tech Companies
Coles and Woolworths overwhelm quickly when the pandemic struck Australia in March 2020. Massive delays caused by unprecedented demand to home deliver caused major delays. Online services were temporarily halt for five weeks in order to prioritize shoppers with special needs.
Since then, both supermarket giants have partnered with food delivery platforms in order to solve the last-mile problem of home delivery. This done by a precarious and on-demand network delivery drivers.
Woolworths and Uber have signed a deal to deliver one hour from select Metro stores in Sydney or Melbourne. The agreement was first trialled in 2020. The order will be pick up by Woolworths staff and pack and hand to an Uber driver. These drivers and the on-demand couriers Sherpa or Drive Yello deliver to thousands of Woolworths customers each week.
Coles believes that partnerships with the on demand economy are more important than ever. Quietly partnered with Airtasker in 2017, encouraging shoppers to list their grocery lists on auction, and having gig workers compete for the job.
Cole also launched a Netflix & Chill essentials range of ice creams, biscuits, and other snacks for UberEats delivery in 2019. These partnerships indicate that a strategy to restructure labour relations was in place before the pandemic.
Personal Shopper At The Supermarket Tech
A growing number of personal shoppers can be found in supermarkets picking up and packing orders for home delivery. They are employ by Coles and Woolworths and move around a multi-tier station with a scanner gun, measuring scales, touch screen, and weighing scales. Software decides how to pick multiple orders efficiently and dictates which items and bags to be pick, as well as the time it should take.
Another personal shopping is perform by plain-cloth gig workers who may use Airtasker to access their mobile phones and are not easily distinguish from other shoppers.
The Warehouse Is Being Reorganize By Global Tech Companies
Online grocery shopping has accelerate Coles and Woolworths development of fully or semi automate warehouses that can be coordinate with smart management systems. Both supermarkets have partnered with tech companies around the world to create state-of-the art warehouses worth billions of dollars. Some are expect to open as early as next year.
Coles has partnered with Ocado a UK software and robotics company, to develop two data-driven customer fulfilment centres in Melbourne and Sydney. They are schedule for opening in 2022. For now, autonomous picking robots will pick up items for human workers, who are more capable of scanning goods and packing them for delivery.
Ocado Smart Platform is the foundation of the system, software, apps and technology that manage online grocery orders. Woolworths has a different strategy for micro-fulfilment, which entails smaller, more centrally located warehouses that allow faster home delivery.
These are hybrid warehouse-supermarket facilities develope by US company Takeoff Technologies. These robots cannibalize floor space in retail stores to create a small warehouse with vertical racks, automation, picking robots, and other features. Robots can retrieve items and pack them for delivery, just like in Ocado. Two of these facilities have already been up and running. The second will open this week on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Traditional Warehouses Are Close
These only two examples of the new automate warehouse systems that will replace traditional warehouses. Existing warehouses close, resulting in thousands of jobs being lost mostly unionize. It is not yet clear if the retrench workers would be transfer to automated sites. These sites will still require large numbers to function.
Tom Barnes, a sociologist, recently found that unionize warehouse workers who are retrench by automation are more likely to work in warehousing in less secure and lower-paying jobs. Simply put, unionize jobs that are lost are not retrenche elsewhere.