Rebooting Frontline Processes: The Future of Automation

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As companies prioritize the digital enablement of their frontline workforces, automation is becoming a must-have component of frontline-optimized technology to support seamless workflows and boost productivity. 

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To support this growing trend, Beekeeper acquired Lua, the workflow platform that digitizes how work is coordinated and orchestrated across frontline teams. With the addition of Lua, Beekeeper’s automation capabilities have grown. This more robust platform will help companies achieve operational excellence through faster, more efficient processes and increased productivity that will make work a better experience for everyone.

At Beekeeper’s first Frontline Future 2021 virtual summit, one session dove into the topic of automation—what it looks like for the frontline workforce and how it will continue to support mobile operations into the future. 

The panelists who shared their insights at The Future of Automation session represented both Beekeeper and Lua and included:

  • Keith Saft—Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Lua
  • Martin Dreymann—Product Manager, Beekeeper
  • Omar Moling—Product Management Lead, Beekeeper
  • Moderator: Ruth Wood— Product Marketing Lead, Beekeeper

Here’s a recap of our Frontline Future session panel on The Future of Automation.

What Is Frontline Automation?

Frontline automation is substituting systems for people to complete repetitive, redundant tasks. 

Martin Dreymann broke frontline automation down into two elements—“executing a sequence of known steps beforehand” and “reducing redundant information input.” Omar Moling added that a core component of automation is, “Triggering the right process at the right time or making sure the right team or employee receives a certain piece of information to carry on their work.”

Frontline automation is one of the driving forces of the Beekeeper and Lua partnership. “The vision of Beekeeper is to be the single point of contact for the frontline employee,” Moling said. 

“We want to make everything work related available through a mobile app that’s as simple to use as any of the other popular mobile apps that almost everyone is using today. This is where the recent acquisition of Lua and bringing in their team and the wealth of knowledge they have on digitizing standard operating procedures is such an important step for us.”

Tackling Automation for the Frontline

“Traditionally it’s been really difficult to bring the same type of time and effort-saving digital tools to frontline workers,” Keith Saft said. But there’s been a dramatic rise in smartphone ownership, and in 2020 there was a 70% jump in mobile usage

“Now people on the frontline have a smartphone in their pocket and with that there’s this huge opportunity to bring a new set of mobile tools to workers,” Saft added. “And those tools really can make them much more efficient, more effective, and really much more satisfied in the job that they’re doing.” 

Saft recalled one customer that improved operations. “I remember the first time we heard from a supervisor at a hotel. She was so excited because she was doing so much less walking during the day. She found this happening once her team had implemented Beekeeper and Lua,” he recalled.

By digitally connecting the hotel staff, multi-step processes that involved several frontline employees, like cleaning and prepping guest rooms, became faster and more efficient. Beekeeper and Lua seamlessly orchestrate the tasks across the housekeeping team and deliver information to each employee in the workflow so they know exactly when they need to tend to a room. “Everything that they needed was right there in the palm of their hands,” said Saft. 

Frontline managers often spend 60% of their time coordinating and relaying information. Automation frees up managers’ time to focus on more value-add initiatives. For the hotel supervisor, “It meant she had a whole bunch more time to deliver higher quality service to her guests,” Saft said, “because she was free from doing something that Lua can do faster and easier.

Another area where frontline automation is important is in streamlining approval flows— like paid time off, requests for protective gear, onboarding evaluations, and shift swapping — that often require a chain of approvals. 

As Moling said, “By digitizing the form order request and the process for the approval, we sped up that process by a matter of days and reduced the costs by a factor of 10-15 times.”

Not only does automation help efficiency, but digitally storing information creates a more compliant workplace. For HR teams responsible for keeping tabs on employee data, a compliance tool can help management keep a record of every request and its approvals or rejections for more detailed, accurate tracking. 

The Future of Frontline Automation

What’s in store for the future of frontline automation? Data, data, and more data. In the connected workplace, mobile collaboration tools will be critical to optimizing operations.

Smart workplaces and machine learning are pushing the evolution of frontline automation. “The cool thing about a lot of the frontline work is it’s highly repetitive and it’s very routine-based,” Dreymann said. “Machine learning loves repetitive stuff like recognizing patterns, seeing if something is wrong or if you can optimize somewhere.” With smart technology, automation will help frontline workers prioritize their to-do lists. 

According to Saft, this infusion of information will make SOPs more “actionable,” enabling tasks to be performed on a just-in-time basis. For example, an SOP might call for a daily cleaning schedule for a particular area. But people-sensing technology can trigger a cleaning as needed based on actual usage.

Dreymann has an even more cinematic vision of frontline automation. 

“When you look at automation it’s going to converge a little bit in the direction of a digital assistant concept. Especially if you think of Iron Man with this computer that seems to know everything and can help him on the fly. That’s kind of the big picture that everyone would like to have in their pocket. Ask it a question and it has the answer. That’s the ultimate version of automation.” 

Download our Operations Management Playbook for more tips on optimizing workforce efficiency through digital enablement.

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