Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where's my pizza?!?!

Admittedly, I was having a hard time coming up with another idea for a blog post this week. After all, two entries in one week is a pretty tall order. So I was taking a break from my studies to watch some basketball and I saw a commercial for Domino's new, reinvented cheesy bread (no, I didn't order any). It made me think about an ad they ran a few months ago where they were touting their new Pizza Tracker service that let you log online and see who was making your pizza and where it was in the pizza-making process. Naturally, this made me think of our class discussion about what it would take for a manufacturer, like Coke, to place an RFID tag on every can that came through their process so they would be able to track it and know exactly which batch it contained and where it was going.

Despite the relatively new commercial, Domino's actually unveiled the Pizza Tracker feature as part of their online ordering system in 2008. While you can argue the merits of or need for being able to track to progress of your pizza order, the parallels to distribution center tracking are clear. Specifically, rather than placing some sort of RFID or similar tag on the physical pizza, Domino's employees hit buttons as the pizza moves through stages of the process (e.g. dough stretched, sauced, baking, out for delivery) process that allow for the Pizza Tracker system to update. It's a strikingly similar "updating" process to that in the Kiva warehouse video Professor Zak showed us where the employee hit the button to indicate an order had been filled or a new order was ready to fill.

Even though there is something rather silly about remotely following the process of your pizza being made, Domino's seems to be taking the idea of integrating technology into their businesses very seriously. In 2009 and 2010 the company went on something of a hiring binge for software and hardware engineers and employees. I wasn't able to see if the new employees were able to update and revamp the Pizza Tracker system, but it is clear that they have helped Domino's move into the customer's mobile device with the creation of an iPhone app in 2011.

While tracking products is nothing new, the concept of the customer being able to track the product through the steps of its production process is rather striking. A more clever and perhaps less trivial application of the same idea is to allow for the customer to be able to track the progress of the cable guy, or any utility service person for that matter. TOA Technologies has designed a software service that does just that and might be able to help reduce the estimated $37.7 billion in waste from customers having to wait an average of 4.3 hours for "scheduled" repair and service calls.

So what do you think about the Pizza Tracker? Do you side with Domino's technology chief, Chris McGlothlin, who says, "It's an emotional roller coaster when you order. Customers wonder: Did they get my order? Are they taking care of me? Will it show up?" Or do you side with Brian Kardon, chief strategy officer at Forrester Research, who says, "It's technology in search of a problem. I don't know how many consumers are twisting and turning over the state of their delivery pizza."? If you agree with Kardon, do you think TOA Technologies program is a better "problem" for the technology? And what other possible applications can you think of for the technology?

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