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Product Managers Start To Use Robots To Deliver Groceries – The Accidental Product Manager

Product Managers Start To Use Robots To Deliver Groceries

Delivering groceries using robots may be easier than creating self-driving cars
Delivering groceries using robots may be easier than creating self-driving cars
Image Credit: Photo by Sagar Sawant on Unsplash

When it comes time for you to get some groceries, what do you do? If you are like most of us, you jump into your car. Drive to the grocery store. Shop for what you want and buy it. Then you jump into your car again and drive home. It turns out that this is a really inefficient way of going about doing things and the product managers at grocery stores want to make some changes. However, in order to make those changes they are first going to have to update their product development definition and invent some grocery delivery robots.


Say Hello To Grocery Delivery Robots

One of the things that most of us need to realize is that when self-driving vehicles come into our lives, they are not going to be cars. Rather, there is a very good chance that they are going to be self-driving robots that are delivering groceries to people who live in our neighborhood. There are a number of reasons that product managers are going to make this type of vehicle happen first: existing laws, simple physics, the current transportation infrastructure, and the size of the market to be served. However, perhaps the biggest reason is simply safety. Self-driving cars are much harder to create than robots that are delivering fruits and vegetables to people.

Product managers are working hard to create autonomous delivery vehicles because they believe that this could transform how retail works and that’s going to look good on their product manager resume. If done correctly, this can accelerate the move from going to the store to using ecommerce. If robots can start to deliver our food, we might stop going to the store and we might start buying smaller amounts more often. Before this can happen, engineers are going to have to find solutions to all of the problems associated with self-driving cars. Additionally, cities may have to create special lanes that can be used by these robots.

What product managers are discovering is that if they take people out of the cars, then they can do more as they design the robot’s hardware and its software. A good example of this is that safety features can be moved to the outside of the vehicle instead of having to have them located on the inside. Restricting the top speed of these robots to 25 mph allows product managers to take advantage of loopholes in U.S. regulations that allow products to be created that lack standard safety features as long as they don’t travel any faster than 25 mph.


What The Future Holds For Grocery Delivery Robots

Product managers are specially designing their robots to do the delivery task that they are being created for. These are low-speed vehicles that are made from fiberglass and foam. The robots are designed to crumple if they are involved in a crash. Product managers believe that home delivery of groceries is a market that is ripe for disruption. Right now, this task is very expensive for customers. Americans spend US$641B on groceries every year. Right now between 2%-4% of those purchases are being done online. This is in contrast to retail sales where roughly 10% of sales are now being done online.

One of the major players in the robot home delivery business is the Domino’s pizza chain. The product managers at Domino’s have stated that “time is the enemy of food”. The company hopes to be able to complete all of their deliveries of food within 10 minutes of a pizza coming out of the oven. Product managers at the major car companies are starting to realize that the robot delivery vehicles of the future may not have to be cars. These firms are now making investments in a number of startups that are creating the robot vehicles that will be used for home delivery.

At this point in time almost all robot delivery vehicles require a minder of some sort. In some cases the robots go out unaided, but they are monitored remotely. In other cases, the robots are followed by humans in cars. One thing that product managers have to be aware of is that pranksters can attack their robots at any time. The robots currently cannot come up to a house and ring a doorbell. Instead, they send the resident a text message when they arrive. There are alternatives to robot vehicles making deliveries such as using drones. However, drones can’t carry as much and they require more rules regarding how and where they fly.


What All Of This Means For You

Product managers are starting to take a careful look at their product manager job description and study how people purchase their groceries. It turns out that going to the store, buying groceries, and then bringing them home is very inefficient. What they think the solution to this problem is will be the creation of robot vehicles that can be used to deliver goods and food to customers with no human intervention. They’ve got a ways to go, but the race is on.

When delivery robots show up, they won’t be cars. Self-driving cars are hard to make – self-driving robots are much easier. If robots can be used to start to deliver food then this could significantly change how retail works. Delivery robots that don’t carry people are much easier to design because you don’t have to worry about so many safety issues. Delivery robots are being designed to crumple if they get involved in an accident. Domino’s pizza is very interested in using robots to deliver pizzas to people. Car companies are starting to understand that delivery robots may not be cars. Currently delivery robots require a minder to keep track of them. They use text messages to let people know that they have arrived.

The future is going to look different than things do today. Robotic delivery vehicles will be used to get our groceries from the store to our homes. Product managers are going to have to solve a number of issues before this can become a reality. However, once they have come up with a solution that can accomplish this task, we are going to have to make way for the army of delivery robots that will be taking over our roads!


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™


Question For You: Can you think of anything that will not be able to be delivered by a robot delivery vehicle?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Ok, so I’m willing to make a confession here. I get a little thrill each and every time I come to the front door and see an Amazon box sitting there waiting for me to bring it into the house and open it up. It’s almost like Christmas day all over again! However, the product managers at Amazon have come to a realization that they need to find a way to save money. What they want to do is to find ways to ship things to their customers in fewer and smaller containers. Are they going to be able to do this?