A Dishwashing Robot May Displace 500,000 Workers Someday Soon


Move over #FightFor15, there’s a new dishwasher in town…

“Robots do not call off, robots don’t take breaks, and robots do not take vacation,” states ‘serial robotics entrepreneur’ Linda Pouliot, CEO and founder of Dishcraft.

[And, they don’t pay union dues or go on strike, one might add.]

From cafeteria workers to those who work in restaurants large and small, there are more than half a million people working as dishwashers in the United States today, reports CNBC.

Enter Dishcraft’s Pouliot and her CTO Paul Birkmeyer.

To learn whether or not kitchens could be automated, Pouliot and Birkmeyer went to work as dishwashers and “discovered that work in the dish room is the same as it has been for decades — repetitive, frantic and physically punishing,” according to CNBC.

Pouliot wrote about her first day washing dishes.

“Dishes came in continuous waves, a torrent of messy, smelly, slippery bowls and plates that I could not keep pace with. I was buried.”

“‘Wow,’ I thought. ‘This sucks.’ Five hours into my shift, my back and arms were sore from reaching and pulling hundreds of wares into my grasp in a repetitive motion. My hands were red and blotchy from being submerged in scalding, soapy water, and my clothes and hair smelled of grease.”

From there, Pouliot and Birkmeyer set about inventing an automated dishwasher.

Here’s how Dishcraft’s system works:

At the dish drop, diners or bussers place dirty bowls and plates into a container that stacks and keeps track of them. When a rack is full, a light calls for a dish-room worker to roll it over to the robotic dishwasher, which loads them up automatically.

The washer picks up the plates and bowls with a magnet, cleans them with a rubber scraping wheel and rinses them with gray water (recycled water safe for cleaning purposes). Dishcraft’s robotic washer uses cameras, sensors and “dirt identification algorithms” to find and clean every last spot of food, even those that would be invisible to the naked eye.

Once they are washed, the machine stacks the plates and bowls into racks. A worker then places those racks in a sanitizer, standard equipment already used in commercial kitchens today. The sanitizer heats up the dishes, killing any remaining germs.

The market seems ripe for Dishcraft. One of the largest crises going on in the restaurant industry, according to Pouliot, is “a labor retention and labor shortage problem, that is felt most acutely in the dishroom.”

“A boom in eating out has caused food service jobs to increase by 43% since the early 2000s to meet customer demand,” writes Pouliot, “with 1.8 million jobs expected to be added in the next 10 years.”

“Yet, despite this growth,” she states, “the workforce is shrinking due to low wages, fewer undocumented workers, and less people willing to do the job.”


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