Amazon closer to replacing humans with robots; Pizza Hut owners sue Korea HQ for $658K in fees; and that was a kidney — not a brain! — at an Aussie KFC

A news summary, focused on 10 big employers; updated 10:54 a.m.

Winning Amazon robot
Winning robot in an Amazon competition picked items off a shelf at a speed of about 100 per hour, much worse than the average 400 by humans.

AMAZON awarded a robotics prize to a team from the TU Delft Robotics Institute in the Netherlands and the company Delft Robotics in the retailer’s second-annual competition to find robots that will someday work alongside humans — or in place of them — in Amazon’s massive distribution centers. At the contest in Germany’s Leipzig, Delft’s robot picked items from a mock warehouse shelf at a speed of around 100 an hour with a failure rate of 16.7%. That’s slow compared to what a human can manage (around 400 items an hour), but a big improvement over last year’s winner, which managed just 30 items an hour. This was the second year for the competition (The Verge). Amazon employs 6,000 workers in the Louisville area at mammoth distribution centers in Jeffersonville, and in Bullitt County’s Shepherdsville.

PIZZA HUT: In South Korea today, another 25 franchisees filed a lawsuit seeking repayment of $657,553 the restaurant chain’s Korean national headquarters charged them for marketing and other services — fees the franchise owners said were unjustified. Their suit came a week after the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of 88 other owners who had asserted the came claim. The dispute dates to March 2007, when the headquarters demanded franchises remit 0.55% of their profits on grounds they’d benefited from marketing, operational, and customer-service counseling provided by the head office. In April 2012, headquarters boosted the fee again, to 0.8%, and required owners sign another contract agreeing to pay the charges. It also unilaterally nullified contracts with owners that either failed to pay the fee or delayed payment (Korea JoongAng Daily).

HAIER‘s appliances, electronics and ductless air conditioners were incorporated into one of Cocoon9’s container homes at last week’s Dwell on Design residential trade show in Los Angeles. The prefab “plug-and-play houses” contain smart technology, energy efficiencies and versatile spaces, delivered fully assembled with quality construction and high-end finishes within four months (Twice). Haier bought GE Appliances last month for $5.6 billion and its 6,000-employee Appliance Park in Louisville’s southend.

PAPA JOHN’S: In the U.K.’s Hull, Papa John’s is opening as many as four restaurants over the next year in the Kingdom’s next “City of Culture,” according to a shy franchise owner (the local newspaper says he “asked not to be named at this time”) who says the eateries could create as many as 25 jobs per location. They would be the city’s first Papa John’s (Daily Mail). All about the U.K.’s cities-of-culture program.

HUMANA is moving more than 120 employees in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., to two new separate locations as part of a broader effort to put sales and service workers in retail settings closer to members (Daily Record).

Rachel Rae

In New Zealand, a reformed “KFC queen” has gone public about her efforts to lose weight in a newspaper series the paper very awkwardly describes as being about a group “taking responsibility for their own health within a family-based, non-judgmental environment that supports all levels, sizes and ages.” Rachel Rae told the Taranaki Daily News: “I loved junk food, I loved fish and chips, and I was known as the KFC queen. I would go there about three times a week. Whatever was quick, filling and fattening — sounds gross eh?” (Daily Star).

In Japan, KFC is offering all-can-eat-in-45-minutes meals every Wednesday night between July 13 and Aug. 31, further expanding a special promotion once only offered on founder Colonel Harland Sanders‘s Sept. 9 birthday (Rocket News 24).

And in Australia’s Brisbane, KFC told diner Eden Hoffschildt that what she thought was a chicken’s brain cooked into in a recent meal was actually a kidney. “There is no health risk associated,” the fast-food chain said, in a reply to Hoffschildt’s Facebook posting about the incident. “The kidney is actually present in the thigh piece of chicken supplied by most leading Aussie chicken suppliers and can actually be found in cooked chicken bought from most leading supermarket” (Courier Mail). It was the second case in the past week of the wrong chicken part found in a Brisbane restaurant meal, and one of a series in recent years at other KFCs in Australia, the U.K., and the United States.

Australia’s nickname is Oz, which is another reason why this scene from the 1939 classic is so apropos:

In other and less gross news, tonight’s Mega Millions lottery jackpot is now an estimated $449 million. That would be the seventh biggest jackpot of all time, including the even better-known Powerball (WDRB). Blaming the Obama Administration’s energy policies, Murray Energy of Clairsville, Ohio, says it could lay off up to 4,400 coal miners by September in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Utah and Pennsylvania (WDRB, too). In the year’s first three months, statewide coal employment plunged 18%, to 6,900 — lowest in 118 years (Herald-Leader). A 26-year-history of coal losses, county-by-county (WFPL).

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