An incredibly expensive robot arm to make a few steps in the Pizza making process? Not really, let’s put in perspective

Zume Pizza is a California-based startup focused in providing the best pizza experience to their customers using technology as key element in the production process — yes, robots helping preparation and even smart baking ovens inside a delivery truck.

After I learned about Zume from the book Measure What Matters [1] I quickly jumped into an YouTube video [2] from Techcrunch to see the thing working; just to stumbled in a provocative question from a visitor:

The automation is only used for two very simple steps in the process?

Reflecting about Zume’s potential

I personally liked the question exactly because it provokes — so I considered it an exercise. My initial reply was:

An interesting point. The thing is that they know your view too; the credit to them is exactly about being about something for the market right now — they are selling — and at the same time their point of advantage is that they are investing in high tech/software/AI infrastructure. Those robot names behind the scenes are evolving every day. As an example, the investment that they make for an expensive arm becomes value over time, as the software evolves at night.

That huge (and perhaps expensive?) arm being in the video can be confusing but a direct message follows: it is a technological element subject to an incremental curve of evolution driven by other industries. Thus, looking at it ignoring this pizza making process is an opportunity to experience the idea that it is highly subject to technology evolution curves. What is scary is the above: it’s now being repurposed in the pizza making process. Now, in this new land, would that arm be pushed to evolve driven by the demands of this industry?

According to the founder, the pizza market size is about 125 billion dollars [3] globally. Or let’s look from another angle: that considering the size of the pizza market, would other players attempt to improve attributes and key elements being used there? Elements such as vision, sensors, moving parts and AI brains? Perhaps they are to come up with new kinds of arms, cheaper, flexible, and also much likely smarter via software updates. All these elements are in motion and all the motion is certainly driving costs down.

What Zume is doing is exactly allowing themselves to be pushed by the speed that technology runs, not by the speed of human arms. From what I read in Measure What Matters, Zume is not driven by a passion to replace a few humans with machines — these things are not their objectives. Instead, they focus in the whole arc aiming for their customers to be able to enjoy a quality pizza; a point that becomes clear when you consider that they put a lot of value in the very beginning (ingredients) and also at the end of the process (their proprietary moving ovens). What’s in between? The intelligence, the moving component. Therefore, looking at a big robotic arm is not the way to look at them. That arm is probably going to be sold, repurposed again, in the future, perhaps replaced by more flexible and cheaper one not so far in the future.

The key point lies in being driven by the mission and to think that all in the middle are key activities that are subject to better processes and ideas.

References

[1] Measure What Matters https://amzn.to/2XK9DWC

[2] Zume delivers made-to-order pizza with robots https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFSdxwRVh8A

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHCWKoeUImE