A recurring theme during our recent ArticulATE food robot and automation conference was the issue of human labor. What do you do when machines displace people in the workforce? It’s a tough question employers throughout the food world are grappling with.

On the one hand, automation is coming, and we need to figure out what combination of government and private sector will be responsible to help re/train people put out of work by robots. On the other hand, food-related companies like Albertsons (and restaurants), are having a tough time finding people to work for them.

Trung Nguyen, VP of eCommerce for Albertsons, told the audience at ArticulATE that the grocer is having a hard time filling jobs, especially truck driving jobs. Turns out people would rather set their own hours and work unsupervised driving for Uber than a delivery truck.

Even with a labor crunch, Albertsons is very methodical in its approach to automation. That’s because Albertsons is unionized, and, as Nguyen explained, before any kind of automation is implemented, the company brings in union reps and lawyers on “day one.” This way, Nguyen said that there is clear communication in what the company does.

Check out the full video from the conference to hear more about how the Albertsons grapples with the labor issue, why scale is important to a chain like Albertsons, and how it, too, has started piloting some autonomous vehicle delivery tests in the Bay Area.

Be sure to check back all through the week for more videos of the full sessions from ArticulATE!

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