Workflows : a McDonalds Case Study

Workflow is a bit of a business buzzword, but what is a workflow and why are they important?


Put simply, a workflow is usually a bunch of clearly defined people-centric tasks that can be completed, sometimes in a particular order, to get a job done in the most optimal way.  From manufacturing to sports, technology to video production, any place where there is a flow between steps, colleagues, tools or processes is a candidate for a workflow. Business process management can be understood as the umbrella methodology to monitor, measure, analyse and optimise workflows and often automate repeatable processes, identify bottlenecks and increase efficiency and quality of the outcomes through, often, standardized processes continuous improvements and re-modelling. 


So, have you ever been to McDonald’s and thought about workflows? I have…


Before you even place an order, there are a variety of different larger workflows included in the supply-chain which got the particular McDonald’s outlet to be in a position to provide you with your double cheeseburger. Including, but not limited to: the food suppliers who provide the raw ingredients like poultry; the food processors who make the patties;  the transportation that gets the food to distribution centres; the distribution centres that sort the local distribution of the patties and the transportation that delivers the patties to any number of outlets. Each of these parts of the supply-chain includes their own workflows. McDonald’s sells 75 hamburgers a minute in over 37,000 global outlets, and are world leaders in food provision. All of this activity requires a number of amazingly efficient workflows. 


So what does a set workflow do to help a team? Well, they create room for accountability and responsibility. For example, Brenda, the boss, may oversee the team of cashiers. Brenda spends some of her time on the till, and some in the office sorting out finances. Brenda is accountable for the restaurant's workflow operating smoothly. If Susie is sick, and Susie usually works on making fries and packing bags, Brenda knows exactly which part of the workflow is missing a player, and can plan accordingly to fill the gap in the workflow. She asks Bob to come in, who is happy to pick up the extra hours. If Susie didn’t have set tasks then it would be more difficult to know where the risk to the workflow failing may be, and therefore mitigating the risk becomes more difficult as Brenda needs to plan for a resource loss but with no set responsibilities, she’s only guessing how to fix the problem.


Everyone is happier because they have their own role to play in making the business function. Brenda is happy because she can analyse and make decisions to keep running quality operations. Brenda’s bosses are happy because they understand what works in her team, and can replicate this model in other teams and other Mcdonalds, applying the standard format and adjusting workflow to suit the different business environments. This provides a great basis for comparison for working out what works and what doesn’t and rolling out company-wide changes. 


So, what about optimising workflows?


Self-service kiosks. As of 2020, the tablets have been implemented in all McDonald's locations. Their snazzy interactive ordering tools are just tablets with a default McDonald’s shop, no different to ordering online from your favourite on-demand delivery app – the only difference is that you’re on location to pick-up. Browse categories, select the items you want for your order for your basket, pay and collect your order number,  and head over to the counter to wait for your number to appear on the big screen, pick up your food and repeat for the next customer.  A simple process that every customer who walks through the door will need to go through to get their food. This is part of a larger workflow. You as a customer take part in a small part of it when you order food. The workflow, in this case, includes the cashiers, the chefs and anyone else who is part of getting your food out to you and keeps the outlet running and able to open every day.


This is an example of workflow optimization. The workflow has been analysed, updated and optimized with the use of the kiosks distributing tasks that can be automated, e.g. ordering food from a set menu and paying. Taking pressure off tills and filtering orders, automatically indexing them in chronological order as they’re picked up by the team. The food is made, bags packed, and it all continues in a loop until closing time.


In this highly simplified example, the workflow at Brenda’s outlet increases awareness of roles and responsibility and efficiency by creating standard, repeatable processes. This often simplifies the process of automating the repeatable parts where possible. The gamification and interactivity of the kiosks provide a better user experience for the customer with the menu at their fingertips, and the ease of use and number of available tablets increase the velocity of the orders and simultaneously make it easy to pinpoint opportunities for improvements to the workflow as data is being recorded each time a customer touches the screen. 


At VidOps, we believe that the video production process for your business is highly automatable. Instead of reinventing the wheel every time you want to create videos for your business, finding new creatives, unsure of how to go about writing scripts or storyboards, sourcing editors –  we have created a streamlined workflow to guide our customers through the process. From booking the right service, working in our collaborative Workspace with local or global creatives and our internal producers, and viewing edited content uploaded by our editors directly to your account with our internal approval service – we’re on a mission to streamline the video marketing workflow whilst maintaining quality. 


Mia Allen

Mia Allen

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