Robert KellermanWorkforce Management

Too many companies across all industries still rely on paper-based procedures for their workflow management. In this article we focus on food producers such as restaurants, fast-food outlets, restaurants, butcheries, bakeries, fresh produce, etc that are influenced by food health, safety and hygiene. It compares paper-based clipboard methods to a more advanced digital workflow solution. Paper-based methods typically involve using clipboards to perform daily essential procedures such as equipment maintenance checks, stock taking, monthly management audits, staff training etc. Clipboards are an easy and understandable tool to utilise when training staff. Moreover, people prefer familiarity and, because clipboards have been around for so long, they are wary to make a change.

Some flaws with using clipboards
Clipboards: The reactive approach
Digital solution: From reactive to proactive
Digital solution: Non-compliance escalation and exception-based reporting
Digital solution: Workflow Automation

Some flaws with using clipboards:

  • Clipboards cause more problems than they solve.
  • Clipboards require manual input which allows for human error.
  • Not only is this time consuming but error prone.
  • Clipboard methods are often associated with mistakes when handwriting has to be deciphered which impacts data accuracy as words are lost in translation.
  • Often in industry, various forms have to be completed on different clipboards and forms can get lost or are incomplete.
  • Incomplete entries are only discovered when reprocessing data and then it is too late.

Clipboards: The reactive approach

Recently, a well-known retail store in South Africa experienced an attempted theft. The guilty party was taken to the office where a long process began.

  1. First, the employee who reported the attempt was required to complete a lengthy incident report explaining the incident and that paper form was then faxed to their corporate offices.
  2. Thereafter a picture was taken of the alleged thief and sent to a manager at corporate via WhatsApp.
  3. The manager at corporate now sits with disjointed information and needs to fill in yet another report.
  4. Then in the case where information is being requested, there is no evidence.

Regional managers typically oversee multiple restaurant venues and struggle to work through the myriad of data and information originating from paper-based systems. With that said regional managers cannot know what is happening in all their stores because they simply don’t have the time or resources to work through all their restaurants' paper-based reports. Clipboards tend to make managers reactive rather than proactive. In the fast-food industry task allocation is commonly coordinated using paper-based methods like clipboards or notice boards. Employees have little information as to what is expected of them or when to complete the task and the manager does not have any visibility on whether specific tasks are being completed or the quality thereof.

Digital solution: From reactive to proactive

One of the main benefits of a digital workflow solution that it empowers the entire workforce and both workers and managers change from being reactive to proactive. Digital solutions and digital checklists are revolutionising the fast-food industry as we know it. Digital solutions are significantly less time-consuming. Setting up and updating digital checklists are quick; no printing or reprinting is required and employees are always working on the latest version. In addition, forms can easily be completed with just the touch of a finger. Digital checklists are also more reliable and less error-prone in various ways. Input errors are avoided as preloaded dropdown lists can be set up, reprocessing errors are minimised as data only has to be captured once, while struggling to read untidy handwriting is a thing of the past. Moreover, the data and information is easily available in one place and accessible from various devices where one can use a search function to find specific files in seconds.

Digital solution: Non-compliance escalation and exception-based reporting

Another advantage of switching to digital is non-compliance escalation and exception-based reporting. Exception-based reporting allows regional managers to have more visibility of store problems and makes it much easier to oversee various stores in real-time as they can easily see what requires immediate attention. This means a digital solution can highlight cases where actual performance deviated significantly from what was required or expected. The system helps to identify anomalies and errors quickly which can then be escalated and resolved almost immediately. In other words, managers can focus on and address the things that are wrong rather than wasting time filtering through everything to find a problem. This is simply not possible using paper-based methods where managers have to filter through hundreds of pages of paper-based reports. Digital workflow management results in managers being more proactive, foreseeing and addressing anomalies immediately allowing issues to be resolved quickly before they escalate into bigger problems.

Digital solution: Workflow Automation

Digital workflow management also allows for workflow automation: A more simplistic and efficient workflow management system. Assigning tasks becomes as easy as selecting the employee from a drop-down list on a mobile app. Workflow automation allows you to build up a database of abilities and skills for each employee ensuring that the right tasks are assigned to the right people. Furthermore, job cards can be created and assigned to the right employee ensuring that they receive a notification of the job with more details, including a stipulated completion time and exactly what is expected of them. Digital workflow automation facilitates proof of presence for employee and company performance. Proof of presence includes details such as who was responsible for which task, their digital location while completing the task, how long they were on site and photographic evidence can be added as an additional requirement.

We hope this article has inspired you to move away from paper-based processes and consider a digital workforce management solution to streamline your operations. To stay informed, please subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on LinkedIn.