retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that Walgreens is using robotics to help compensate for staffing shortages in its retail pharmacies, "setting up a network of automated, centralized drug-filling centers that could fill a city block. Rows of yellow robotic arms bend and rotate as they sort and bottle multicolored pills, sending them down conveyor belts. The company says the setup cuts pharmacist workloads by at least 25% and will save Walgreens more than $1 billion a year."

The goal, the Journal writes, is to "give pharmacists more time to provide medical services such as vaccinations, patient outreach and prescribing of some medications. Those services are a relatively new and growing revenue stream for drugstores, which are increasingly able to bill insurers for some clinical services."

The story points out that "Walgreens in the past two years has opened eight automated drug-filling centers serving 1,800 stores and plans to operate close to two dozen by 2025.  One of the biggest, near Dallas, fills 35,000 prescriptions a day, serving about 500 stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.  Roughly 20% of prescriptions filled by those locations are done at the centralized locations."

KC's View:

Not just prescriptions, of course … people are embracing robotics in lots of places as a way of saving money and compensating for staffing shortages.

Axios this morning notes that there are a host of startups introducing machines that churn out pizza pies "faster and cheaper than humans …  Some of the brightest minds in engineering have turned their attention to pizza, building contraptions that can stretch dough, apply tomato sauce, and sprinkle cheese and toppings without human intervention."

My only problem with this is that for me, making pizza is art, not science … and last I checked, machines aren't particularly good at art.  I'd prefer to patronize pizza places where someone with a sense of artistry is making the pies … there may be people making the pies at places like Pizza Hut, Domino's and Papa John's, but based on taste, they may as well be robots.

For me, great pizza often is the best medicine.