During his time in business John experienced a tremendous amount of change, culturally, technically and in business.
The advent of computers was one of the biggest leaps. “We moved from a comptometer to a calculator. One of the first things I did was to get our companies to use NCR’s punch paper tape. That was a big jump. We coded the invoices and then sent the tape to NCR, and they'd process the information. That was a step forward and we couldn’t imagine technology advancing beyond that. With that information, we knew what our gross profit was by customer, by inventory item, etc. and life got so much easier for us all.”
We continued to talk more about systems like the IBM 1410, which took up an entire room and was the Cadillac of the day, yet our little cellphone now has hundreds of times the power.
“I've witnessed this cycle from absolutely nothing to our technology exploding today, which is amazing. And I've been out of active business since 1989,” John said.
But the advent of computers improved the general satisfaction of the employees because employers could see results. It spared them the mechanical errors that might otherwise have occurred. But they could get their work done quickly, more accurately.
“I think computers, though there are exceptions, but from my observation, really improved the work environment,” John said. “Then we progressed from that to a minicomputer and at that point, I got heavily involved with our data processing center at the university.”
“Imagine,” Marvin chimed in, “not only progressing to the minicomputers but to machines that are self-propelled and can easily clean the aisle of a major retail store like Walmart. I went to Walmart, there was one just right behind me. It knows exactly where the aisles are and where it's going and what it's cleaning. Nobody needs to take care of them. They're robots with sensors and are completely automated.”
Marvin explained that these fully automated machines are not just cleaning, they are monitoring traffic — the amount of people at a certain time, at a certain location inside the store.
“They are collecting data as well as cleaning. Their use is functional as well as allowing Walmart to know exactly the level of traffic throughout different times throughout the store and where people are congregated.”
Fully automated, data collecting, self-cleaning robots are a long way from the comptometer. Seeing these kinds of shifts and predicting where these shifts may take place is invaluable in our world today. And living through the changes the pandemic has caused has made us aware the disruptions are going to occur. Are we ready?
“There will always be losses as our world changes,” Marvin said. “Walmart will save a bucket load of money not having to deal with hiring a company to take care of their cleaning or that aspect of cleaning. Plus, they collect data on their most important clientele, people who are walking in and out of their store every day. These are the things people are either not thinking about and don’t see coming and they're really panicking about that, as opposed to seeing what opportunities are available. It's just going to be impossible for a business owner to say no to that kind of efficiency or even competitively.”
There were other disruptions back in John’s day; a war, the advent of the automobile, Civil Rights, etc. What does Marvin see on the horizon for what our future holds as we reflect on these disruptions?
In our next article, we’ll share the changes John witnessed through the war, how the GI Bill helped promote education, and the benefits of a society that invests in the education and development of its people.
Danise Distasi is president and owner of Distasi Advisors. Reach Danise at 513-477-7624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured image at top: Glenn Carstens Peters/Unsplash