Ghost in the Machine: The technology of the English Tea Room.

We’ve got the automation of our crumpet making facility down to a T now. The dough goes in there, it’s kneaded and proved there, shaped and baked there and dispensed onto bright white plates there, before being accompanied by portion controlled dollops of butter and regulated strawberry jam just there.

The trouble with employing people is that you could never  precisely control the portions; sometimes customers were sold too little, sometimes too much. Increasingly we found ourselves wasting far too many raw ingredients which was knocking a whacking collection of crumpet size small whole holes in our bottom line, and until we automated the process, there was a real risk of the business failing.

No longer though: we’ve turned what was a sinking Bismarck sized bun of a business into a lean mean crumpet machine which is forecast to grow by 19% every year for the foreseeable future. And all because we automated every aspect of the operation which had the potential for human error to drive up costs and drive down profits.

Of course, it’s a bit lonely for the one remaining operative down on the factory floor but at least she’s in a job, unlike the 16 ex-colleagues who are now retraining for new careers in the catering industry. But I ask myself, who wants to spend their whole time punching holes in crumpets anyway? What kind of life is that?

And don’t get me started on the dignity of labour: there’s nothing dignified about standing up to your ears in dough all day, tramping around and around in circles just to get the consistency right. I know for a fact that those we laid off have a much more fulfilling life since we had to let them go.

No, we’ve never had any problem with the automation process ever since we had it installed. There was only the one occasion when a customer found a wasp in the jam portion she had been dispensed but we soon sorted that out: straight into the incinerator it went. The wasp I mean, not the customer haha.

Mind you, if someone could make automated customers one day that would make life easier for everyone. That’s the main trouble with this business now, the customers keep getting in the way of you doing your job.

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

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