Automation is set to radically transform every industry on the planet.
According to the World Economic Forum, half of the companies will reduce their full-time workforce by 2022. McKinsey estimates that as many as one-third of American jobs will disappear by 2030.
Grant Reid, the CEO of Mars, recently sat down with Business Insider to discuss the $35 billion company’s approach to technology and automation.
“We’re using digital [in the] factory and artificial intelligence to predict when a machine is likely to break and fix it in advance. Which, you know, that capability wasn’t even there only a few years ago,” Reid said. “So, it’s actually all through the value chain, and it’s creating massive opportunities — but massive obligations as well.”
According to Reid, as Mars sees the opportunity to replace certain roles with machines, “there’s a big obligation to make sure we’re retraining our associates for the future.”
“We’ve invested considerably in retraining 10,000 of our associates in the manufacturing plants to get them ready for that next role,” Reid said. “That’s where I mentioned obligation; it’s a big obligation.”
Watch Reid explain Mars’ approach to automation above, and read the full transcript here:
Kate Taylor: We’ve talked a lot about some of the big picture, ethical trends, generational trends. When we’re thinking about food trends, what are you seeing now? Especially in the confection space that is interesting to you and interesting to Mars?
Grant F. Reid: Yeah, so I think people are looking for you know, premiumization, I think is a very interesting space.
You know, people perhaps want to eat less, but when they eat, they really want it to be an experience. So that’s an interesting area, you know, for something, a brand like M&M’s.
I think the way that our consumers are using social media to connect with us is pretty interesting, so there’s a lot of really interesting areas around technology. I can give you one example from pet care, which is cats suffer a lot from renal issues, and it’s quite hard to detect, and sometimes when it’s detected it’s really too late. So what we’ve been able to do with our data through our vets is actually using artificial intelligence, to a 95% confidence level, tell you when your cat may be having renal problems two years ahead of any… and that was just launched in the last week or so, actually. Like, just think of that. You can now take better care of your cat by identifying earlier on using modern technology, which is phenomenal.
And, you know, that creates a better world for pets, a better world for cats in that particular case, and keeps the owner and the cat together for longer, which is a great reason to get up in the morning.
Taylor: Tech investments are so interesting in this space. What aspects of tech do you think are going to have the greatest impact on Mars’ future?
Reid: Well, a lot, all the way through the range, everything from, if you look at the phenomenon of Amazon and Alibaba and JD.com, et cetera, et cetera, the way people buy your products, peruse your products, think about your products, communicate with you, is so much different. So there’s a lot happening there.
There’s a lot happening in advertising and communicating with your consumer. Use of social media, some big changes there. And there’s also changes even in the factory, you know, so we’re using digital [in the] factory and artificial intelligence to predict when a machine is likely to break and fix it in advance. Which, you know, that capability wasn’t even there only a few years ago. So, it’s actually all through the value chain, and it’s creating massive opportunities but massive obligations as well.
Taylor: Something that is also all through the chain is the idea of automation. How does Mars approach automation and how do you think it’s going to change not just Mars but kind of the future of work in America?
Reid: Yeah, so we’ve been big on automation since we really came into being, which is, how do we… efficiency is one of our principles. How can we become more efficient? I think with the automation move and the use of artificial intelligence perhaps taking away some of the more rudimentary roles, there’s a big obligation to make sure we’re retraining our associates for the future.
So we have our own Mars university, which has won awards around the world. We’ve invested considerably in retraining 10,000 of our associates in the manufacturing plants to get them ready for that next role. That’s where I mentioned obligation; it’s a big obligation. We have to make sure. We’re getting one of our five principles of responsibility. We have a responsibility to make sure we’re creating a vibrant work environment, we’re taking advantage of the technology, but we’re taking our associates with us.
Taylor: That’s such an interesting thing because there have been so many headlines that are just like, robots are going to steal our jobs. How do you kind of set an example and show this can be something that’s an opportunity, not a disadvantage for our workers?
Reid: So, it’s not just investing in the technology, but you’re investing in your associate base. And that could be, so, you know, vet health is a good example where we’re investing in our associate base. Vets typically have very heavy levels of debt. They typically are quite high-stressed from small vets, and what we’ve done is actually use our credit capability to lower their cost of debt. We’ve made sure that any vets that we have now have got at least three people in there. Again, so that people can take breaks.
So it’s not just about investing in them when it’s automation, but it’s investing in them to make sure that we’re taking away pain points in their life, and we’re trying to do both of those things.