Drones are the future for deliveries: Don Meij, Dominos CEO

This is not a pipe dream, this is a future reality for deliveries

The story of the CEO of Dominos is one you couldn’t have written 30 years ago and believed. Don Meij worked at a pizza store in Redcliffe Queensland delivering pizza in the late 1980’s and is now the CEO of one of the biggest fast-food brands on the planet.

don-meijIn Australia, Dominos dominates the take-away and delivery pizza market, and it’s because Don Meij put them on a path to success through innovation and efficiency.

When it comes to technology though, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were all show and no go.  Announcements of drones, robots and GPS tracking that do little to change the taste of the pizza or reduce the costs to consumers.

On my radio show this week I spoke with Don Meij about his technology strategy and path to innovation and the idea of this being all for show was blown out the window.

Meij told me Dominos have around 170 team members creating and dreaming up or visualising the technology solutions for Dominos.  When you take into account the sub contractors and partner organisations that could be over 300 people on a major project.

Through innovations in ordering workflows and also some amazing oven technology, over 100 stores have the ability to deliver your pizza in around 10 minutes. Ten.

But it’s the future of deliveries that is the most fascinating.

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Take the DRU – Dominos Robotic Unit.  This little robot to me seemed like nothing more than a publicity stunt.  But when the CEO explains that a huge percentage of deliveries are within 1-3 kilometers of the store, it starts to make some sense.

What’s wrong with delivery drivers though?  Don Meij says the problem is we just won’t have enough.

“We have a problem globally, with the Internet of Retail, there’s a large proportion of items purchased online that need to be delivered”

“We are only about two years out where our business will grow so extraordinarily, we wont actually have enough drivers in Australia to deliver the number of goods that are being ordered on the internet”

And then there’s the price. “The cost of delivery is prohibitive” says Meij, currently “the cost of delivery for dominos ranges from $8-12”.

If technology can be embraced fully, Meij believes that will be reduced dramatically “in the future we think that can be between $1-$5”.

Meij isn’t suggesting all Pizzas will be dropping from drones or rolling around on robots.  Because of the nature of many locations, high-rises or apartments “Not everything will be able to be delivered automatically” he says, “somewhere between 25-50% of Australia can be automated with the technologies available today”

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His passion for drone delivery though is the most exciting to think about.  Taking into account those problems and statistics, Meij looks to the skies for efficient and safe deliveries, saying “The safest part of the planet is between 50m and 120m (150-400 feet) in the air”

“We can avoid airports, high rises, and in 70% of Australia the regular community that space can be very useful and very safe.”

After successful trials in recent months, Meij confirmed that “in 2017 in New Zealand we will be delivering pizzas by drones in New Zealand”

So what about Australia? Meij describes the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) as a “very forward thinking body”.

However in Government there’s a bit more work to do.  Meij describes several senators as “Fearful”.  Citing three key areas of concern.  Safety, Jobs and Privacy.

Dominos CEO Don Meij has answers for everything.

Safety – Once we property zone the no-fly areas, that low airspace is the safest place

Jobs – there won’t be enough people to fill the need for delivery, and Meij thinks Australia should own and create the ecosystem for deliveries of the future – thus, creating jobs in Australia.

Privacy – Meij admits, “Drones have cameras, but it’s never viewed, its only for a record in the event of safety” – much like CCTV in many ways.

With companies like Flirtey (Who Dominos have partnered with on their Drone delivery trials) working with the likes of NASA – we’re going to see some amazing innovation in this space.  Flirtey now have drones with parachutes, thanks to their work with NASA.

And when it comes to traffic lights in the sky – also working with NASA on the systems and processes required to make this new airspace safe.

 

If anything, I’m inspired by what Don Meij thinks of the future of retail, the future of food and the future of deliveries.  Why fight it when we can embrace it – perhaps be world leaders?

Have a listen to the full interview above or at Talking Lifestyle

 

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Tech

Trevor produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He has a weekly radio show on 2UE, as well as appearances across the country and regularly provides Technology Commentary to Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
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