After Amazon announced
it would buy Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion earlier this month, John Mackey, Whole Foods' chief executive officer, rejoiced and reportedly gushed about Amazon's technological innovation
. "We will be joining a company that's visionary," Mackey said. "I think we're gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we're gonna see a lot of technology. I think you're gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds." Specifically, Mackey is talking about the thousands of delivery robots Amazon uses in its facilities. Bloomberg reports: In negotiations, Amazon spent a lot of time analyzing Whole Foods' distribution technology, pointing to a possible way in which the company sees the most immediate opportunities to reduce costs, said a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the issue was private. Experts say the most immediate changes would likely be in warehouses that customers never see. That suggests the jobs that could be affected the earliest would be in the warehouses, where products from suppliers await transport to store shelves, said Gary Hawkins, CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, a Los Angeles nonprofit that helps retailers and brands innovate. As Amazon looks to automate distribution, cashiers will be safe -- for now. Amazon sees automation as a key strategic advantage in its overall grocery strategy, according to company documents reviewed by Bloomberg before the Whole Foods acquisition was announced. Whole Foods has 11 distribution centers specializing in perishable foods that serve its stores. It also has seafood processing plants, kitchens and bakeries that supply prepared food to each location. Those are the places where Amazon could initially focus, according to experts.
While the company said it has no current plans to automate the jobs of cashiers
in Whole Foods stores after it finishes acquiring the grocery chain, it's likely only a matter of time before cashier positions become automated. According to Bloomberg's report, Amazon may bring the robots to the stores after automating Whole Foods' warehouses. "The first ones will likely navigate aisles to check inventory and alert employees when items run low, said Austin Bohlig, an advisor at Loup Ventures, which invests in robotics startups," reports Bloomberg.