New tech doesn't always boost productivity

As a regular patron at a coffee shop located near my workplace, I have noticed that the shop owner has recently introduced the use of tablets for its drink stall assistants to take and manage customers' orders.

However, this has led to fewer assistants taking orders, as some of them do not feel comfortable working with the gadget in place of the paper and memory-based methods that they have been used to.

These "excess" workers will now only deliver drinks to customers after the orders have been taken by their colleagues equipped with the tablets.

This has resulted in a longer waiting time for customers, as the number of assistants taking orders has been reduced.

Worse still, the cashier and barista continue to process orders based on verbal orders given by other customers, thereby further prolonging the waiting time for diners who have placed their orders through assistants equipped with tablets.

One of the assistants serving my table proclaimed that several of his colleagues plan to resign after receiving their bonuses early next year because of the "cumbersome" order management system that the owner has installed.

My encounter at the coffee shop seems to run contrary to the coffee shop owner's well-intentioned plan to raise workplace productivity and enhance customers' dining experience.

Seet Choon Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'New tech doesn't always boost productivity'. Print Edition | Subscribe