Would pizza made by robots taste better than pizza made by humans? It’s hard to say for sure, but Zume Pizza in Silicon Valley is experimenting with a heavily automated work force. Their robots aim to help make their product more consistent and high quality in areas where humans can sometimes fall short. Spreading sauce evenly and over the right surface area, for example, or removing dough from a wooden pallet. They can also pull pizzas out of an over 800 degree oven, which makes the job safer for their human counterparts.
Zume isn’t about automating to the extent that humans would no longer be a necessary part of the business, however! The company started out with 3 individuals and has expanded to more than 150 employees. In 2018, they have plans to expand outside the San Francisco Bay Area and hire on an additional 900 non-robots. Ron Storn, former vice president at Lyft, has also joined in to help expand the business. He will be running the Human Resources department and helping Zume prove that humans working along side robots can promote job growth, not stunt it.
In an industry with heavy competition, Zume seeks to make better tasting pizza, faster, and cultivate its human work force. Zume hired on entry level positions and provided tuition subsidies for coding, graphic design or English as a second language classes. One delivery driver is now in charge of the entire customer service team. A pizza chef has risen to the rank of culinary administrator and thanks to the coding classes that were paid for by the company. These benefits and initiative to help build careers makes Zume a very attractive company to work for, and the automation makes them highly competitive in a market saturated with pizza in every shape and form.
Big business pizza chains like Pizza Hut or Dominoes might be in trouble if this model catches on and takes off outside of Silicon Valley. Not only do the robots speed up production, they also are less likely to make errors on the order. When the humans take over the process to actually delivery a steaming hot pizza, it arrives as much as 20 minutes sooner than the competitor’s average. Look out, pizza chains!