Remember that old Saturday Night Live sketch with John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd running a Greek diner? It’s the one with the classic line “No Coke, Pepsi” and the unique numerical system of “cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” That kind of short-order line cooking is still here and, I think, will never entirely vanish because a market, albeit small, will likely remain for that kind of labor-intensive but personal experience.
McDonald’s took the process of making a hamburger and re-engineered it, from the standardization of the patty and the scientific precision of cooking times and temperatures. Aside from whether you like or dislike the Big Mac or the Royale With Cheese, there is no mistaking the change in process to create a cost-effective alternative to “cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.”
You may have also noticed last year the announcement of a robot to make hamburgers. The company is Momentum Machines (http://momentummachines.com/) and they unabashedly are seeking to entirely replace humans from the task of making burgers. Of note, not only are they positioning their product as more cost-effective but also capable of a high degree of flexibility, making it able to make custom burgers (literally “1 piece flow”) at a high level of quality. Business Insider reported:
The company’s robot can “slice toppings like tomatoes and pickles immediately before it places the slice onto your burger, giving you the freshest burger possible.” The robot is “more consistent, more sanitary, and can produce ~360 hamburgers per hour.”
The next generation of the device will offer “custom meat grinds for every single customer. Want a patty with 1/3 pork and 2/3 bison ground to order? No problem.”
Momentum Machines cofounder Alexandros Vardakostas told Xconomy his “device isn’t meant to make employees more efficient. It’s meant to completely obviate them.” Indeed, marketing copy on the company’s site reads that their automaton “does everything employees can do, except better.”
It occupies 24 square feet, so it’s much smaller than most assembly line fast-food operations. It boasts “gourmet cooking methods never before used in a fast food restaurant” and will even deposit your completed burger into a bag. It’s a veritable Gutenberg printing press for hamburgers.
xraydelta is certainly keen about these new innovations — after all, devices like this do bring us closer to lean flow in process. Yet it is another interesting signal that we are near, or perhaps already past, the so-called tipping point for a broader replacement of human work.