In the Firing Line

Hitting targets until the target becomes you.

18 messages
25/11/2013 at 21:10

Watching a program about working conditions at Amazon. Not so much the conditions that drew my attention, more the way information technology was used to chase workers around to hit targets. 

Talk about make a rod for our own backs.

25/11/2013 at 21:32

But thats not IT's fault. Thats the fault of humans aka middle managers who say 'Oh we can process X amount of orders per hour, so we'll need each staff member to process X amount of orders to keep up.'

The money you save by using IT, you should be using to hire more staff. So the fault lies entirely with the fact that Amazon should be hiring more staff to cope if staff can't meet deadlines.

 

XX1
25/11/2013 at 22:16
The real Mr I wrote (see)

...

The money you save by using IT, you should be using to hire more staff...

 

I don't agree with that assertion; however, it doesn't matter how many people get employed IT could still be used to chase those workers around to hit targets.

XX1
26/11/2013 at 06:45
The real Mr I wrote (see)

The money you save by using IT, you should be using to hire more staff. So the fault lies entirely with the fact that Amazon should be hiring more staff to cope if staff can't meet deadlines.

 

All investment has to have a payback and the IT equipment is solely designed (and touted) for the purpose of a quick payback. Managers have to use what is presented or they put themselves in the firing line. The payback is cost reduction which is the opposite of hiring more staff.

Do you really think anyone would invest in IT just to bring in more people! come on real world answers please.

 

26/11/2013 at 07:17

I'm of an age when the rise of computers was touted as a means to free the masses from menial work; the idea was that they would have more leisure time. Indeed they do, its called redundancy.

Not quite a Luddite, the Amazon case is the logical endpoint of still needing people to perform some tasks. Despite them earning less than 25 years ago for similar work, the sword held over their heads is the threat of having no work at all and earning nothing.

Just like anyone who has an Iphone or similar device that they cannot afford to turn off or exist without, they are 'slaves to the machine'.  

26/11/2013 at 08:23

Computers and IT freeing people up was (and remains) a massive fallacy, more people are now employed in tedious computer related admin tasks than ever before.

26/11/2013 at 08:26
RicF wrote (see)

I'm of an age when the rise of computers was touted as a means to free the masses from menial work; the idea was that they would have more leisure time. Indeed they do, its called redundancy.

Not quite a Luddite, the Amazon case is the logical endpoint of still needing people to perform some tasks. Despite them earning less than 25 years ago for similar work, the sword held over their heads is the threat of having no work at all and earning nothing.

Just like anyone who has an Iphone or similar device that they cannot afford to turn off or exist without, they are 'slaves to the machine'.  

Scary innit?

26/11/2013 at 08:40

Tory methodology, put them out of work, give them a taste of hardship and they'll work for less on the come back. Look back over your political history. This is the party that opposed the minimum wage, why would you expect any different. 

26/11/2013 at 08:50

I don't think it's Tory methodology I think it's capitalism - I'm pretty sure it was no different under the last government.

26/11/2013 at 09:09

One party brought in the min wage one opposed it. Says it all for me

26/11/2013 at 09:09
RicF wrote (see)

Watching a program about working conditions at Amazon. Not so much the conditions that drew my attention, more the way information technology was used to chase workers around to hit targets. 

Talk about make a rod for our own backs.

but is that so much different to pre-computer days??   back in the day of manufacturing being the hub of most countries domestic output, companies  were using production targets to improve output.  whether that was tons of coal dug, number of cars produced etc these were all done to targets and workers had to improve or they could be "moved on".

we had people who specialised in "time and motion study" - my cousin was a person who did this - who looked at how people worked and tried to improve their efficiency.  simply they would time them for a task and look for ways of them doing it quicker so production got faster.  

it's the methodologies to measure targets that are different these days but the end result - hitting targets - isn't

26/11/2013 at 13:32

Ah Computers ruining everything, Skynet is getting closer

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/15/google_thinking_machines/

26/11/2013 at 13:59

fat buhhda - you summed up my thoughts really.  I saw the program and there was mention of people being "treated like robots", but that is no different to many jobs on a factory shop floor.  I'm not necessarily saying it's right, but that is the nature of the job.

On the face of it though, the Amazon targets did seem overly ambitious as there was footage with other employees saying they usually struggled to meet their targets.

The thing that seemed draconian to me was the points system where you basically got the sack if you accrued 3 points for not meeting targets, going off sick etc.

I don't know enough about the European law, but was the working time directive mentioned in the program last night implying that Amazon were breaking some law on working hours of employees?  I'm absolutely no expert in this, but I found that to be unlikely as I thought 12 hour night shifts on a factory floor (4 days on, 4 days off) were quite common?  

26/11/2013 at 14:11
I love a good old time and motion study. They did one at my work a couple of years ago and found out we were spending too much time driving and doing admin rather than spending time face to face with customers.
So they set everyone a target that meant spending more time each day with customers and less time doing amin but never actually reduced the amount of admin we had to do. Which meant people taking work home with them instead and working more hours for the same pay.
26/11/2013 at 16:23

Targets are always the problem, once you improve to approach the target you slow down so the target becomes the limit.

26/11/2013 at 16:32
Nick Windsor 4 wrote (see)
The real Mr I wrote (see)

The money you save by using IT, you should be using to hire more staff. So the fault lies entirely with the fact that Amazon should be hiring more staff to cope if staff can't meet deadlines.

 

All investment has to have a payback and the IT equipment is solely designed (and touted) for the purpose of a quick payback. Managers have to use what is presented or they put themselves in the firing line. The payback is cost reduction which is the opposite of hiring more staff.

Do you really think anyone would invest in IT just to bring in more people! come on real world answers please.

 

It is a real world answer. IT speeds up processes, more people use your business because of this, the more business you have the more 'people' you need to cope with the human related parts of your business.

It aint rocket science.

Or did you think that Amazon would require the same amount of people it had during its first ever week in business with its 3 customers vs the millions it now has? IT can only do so much.

As long as you have a section of your business that you can't automate, if your business gets bigger, you will need more people. So as Amazon gets bigger it will need either need more people or improved automation to handle the demand.

 

Edited: 26/11/2013 at 16:34
26/11/2013 at 16:46

Mr I actually makes a good point (did I actually say that)? 

The new systems we use at work enable an increased capacity but it's humans that have to deal with the consequences of that increase - hence more of us are needed, both temporary and permanent.

26/11/2013 at 16:58

Bearing in mind that Amazons owner has accumulated 33 Billion dollars. The rider to why profits must be maximized no matter what, has to be to be 'whats this guys problem?'.


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