Labor shortages, inflation, supply chain constraints, and changing consumer preferences are being felt by most industries, but the speed and precision required by Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) only amplifies these macro challenges further. Digital twins, while mostly adopted in factories and warehouses, are making their way down the supply chain to help tackle inefficiencies and bolster QSR operations.
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Faster Service, Greater Challenges
The Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) industry continues to experience steady growth; however, amid this expansion, the industry is facing a mix of challenges. Some challenges are present across the supply chain, while some remain more exclusive to the unique nature of QSR operations.
Labor shortages, inflation, supply chain constraints, and changing consumer preferences are being felt by most industries, but the speed and precision required by QSRs only amplifies these macro challenges further. Minor issues in such a fast-paced, competitive industry can be catastrophic to brand reputation, and consumers have no shortage of alternative chains to turn to.
Digital Simulation to the Rescue
When understanding how to address the challenges facing the QSR industry, it is difficult to avoid the similarities between QSRs and industrial facilities. Both operate with strict production lines, efficiency is a necessity, and throughput is king. As a result, technologies that are delivering optimization to the industrial sector are starting to make their way down the chain to QSRs.
Digital twin solutions and the ability to simulate operations has been revolutionary to manufacturers, with adoption growing substantially as the technology has matured and Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructure expands. A leading vendor in this space, Siemens Digital Industries Software, has provided its digital simulation tool, Tecnomatix, to enable organizations to visualize and optimize their workflows and processes through a digital twin. While initially targeted at industrial settings, Tecnomatix is coming for the QSRs.
For QSRs, such visibility of people, machines, and workflows presents the same opportunity that many manufacturers have already capitalized on, not only addressing the challenges highlighted above, but also unlocking new operational efficiencies. Benefits to QSRs using the Tecnomatix solution include:
- Task Management and Optimized Staffing: Both worker schedules and assigned stations (food prep, fryer, drive-through, etc.) can be better matched with operational needs by assessing historical demand patterns, assessing where bottlenecks are occurring, and simulating new plans.
- Equipment Utilization and Restaurant Layout: Taking the restaurant into the digital domain allows organizations to assess alternative layouts for both worker and customer flows.
- Identify and Adapt to Customer Preferences: By leveraging demand data, QSRs can assess how changes in order volume and customer preferences may affect operations and identify what changes to equipment, layout, or staffing can be made to improve speed of service.
Digital twins are becoming essential for QSRs to stay competitive and adaptable to changing customer preferences. Leveraging a solution like Tecnomatix can lead to increased throughput, greater resilience to demand fluctuations, more efficient resource allocation, reduced operational costs, improved profitability, and increased customer satisfaction.
The First Port of Call
Different technologies have made their way into QSRs. A number of chains have adopted self-service kiosks and Kitchen Display Screens (KDS) to free up customer-facing workers and remove physical ticket systems. Larger chains have also taken on software programs such as Altametrics and Xenial for reporting and scheduling functions, but adoption of comprehensive digital twins remains nascent.
As QSRs increasingly turn to technology to adapt to changing market conditions and optimize operations, digitalization strategies must follow a step process focusing first on visibility, then assessment, and then adoption.
- Visualize: Leverage operational data and build a digital twin of QSR operations for full visibility.
- Assess: Use digital twins like Siemens Tecnomatix to run simulations, identify where inefficiencies are occurring, and execute informed resource allocation to optimize throughput.
- Adopt: With a comprehensive view of operational flow, QSRs can make better decisions on what technologies they really need and target investment accordingly.
It is important to see digital twin solutions both as a tool for optimizing operations and as a foundational technology to inform future investment. Tackling many of the challenges facing a QSR may be as simple as restructuring staff allocation, adjusting the restaurant layout, or adding an extra drive-through window. Not all limitations require an army of robots to come in and fill the gaps. Focus first on visibility, and the rest becomes a whole lot easier.