Jun 21, 2022

How AR and AI help solve the onboarding challenge in the food industry

  • Empower frontline workers
  • Today’s food industry faces several essential challenges, including a very high employee turnover, stringent hygiene regulations, and fierce competition. This all translates into a distinct need for super-efficient onboarding and training. Modern technologies offer a solution that can cut onboarding and training time in half while enjoying great user acceptance. [By Stinne Mattle, Content Marketing Manager at TeamViewer]

    How does this work? Read on to learn how a global food industry organization paired smart glasses with Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) software to handle these challenges head-on.


    Core Challenges of Today’s Food Industry

    Employee turnover is sky-high
    At the start of 2019 before the pandemic hit, the estimated employee turnover rate for the food service industry was as high as 75%. That means many restaurants had to plan on losing three out of four employees over the course of a single year. In the fast-food industry, this rate is estimated to be as high as 130-150%. This ongoing challenge creates massive pressure on restaurant managers, who require super-efficient ways to continuously onboard and train new employees to keep the core business running.

    Constantly hiring new employees is expensive
    In 2014, human capital consulting services Bersin by Deloitte calculated that US-based companies spent an average of USD 4,000 to fill out an open position. US-based restaurants may lose somewhere between USD 2,000 and 2,800 every time an employee leaves. The high turnover that characterizes the food industry is a very costly business because time and energy constantly must be put into:

    • Finalizing work relationships
    • Finding and hiring a replacement
    • Onboarding and training new employees

    Strict food safety and hygiene measures must be met 
    Food safety and hygiene measures are essential and subject to strict regulations in almost every part of the world. Failing to comply with these can lead to hefty fines, unhappy customers, and a bad rumour – all severe consequences for a restaurant. However, having a top-notch hygiene concept in place can become a competitive advantage, as restaurants can proactively advertise with excellent ratings both on- and offline. Of course, to achieve top ratings, clear hygiene concepts must be established, and new employees must be trained to understand and follow these.

    Competition is fierce
    According to Statista, more than 13,000 new restaurants have opened in the U.S. in the year 2018. That is 35 new restaurants every single day. Compared to the previous year, this was a 2% increase and the restaurant industry reached more than 600,000 businesses in the US alone. Consumers are spoiled for choice, so a restaurant fully relies on trained personnel to consistently deliver a great dining experience to stay competitive.

    Efficient training relies on high employee acceptance
    When producing onboarding and training concepts, restaurant managers need to consider what methods are likely to appeal to new and existing employees. Many chose paper-based manuals, e-learning, or instruction videos, which employees go through as part of their onboarding. However, this mode of learning is far from the reality of performing the job – which is a particular disadvantage when the job consists mainly of manual work, as is the case for anyone preparing food. More immersive on-the-job onboarding and training has been proven to cut down on training time, create highly efficient learning environments, and foster high employee acceptance.

    How AR- and AI-Based Workflows Cut Training Costs in Half

    To tackle all the above-mentioned challenges head-on, a global food industry organization combined smart glasses with TeamViewer Frontline’s AR- and AI-based workflows to offer an entirely different onboarding and training solution to their many clients. The organization works with thousands of restaurants, cantinas, caterers, and food processors across the globe. Adopting the organization’s AR-based training solution, a leading customer could report:

    • 65% reduction in training costs
    • 83% increase in employee satisfaction with training
    • 50% increase in improved training accuracy
    • 50% improved retention and confidence over traditional platforms
    • 75% savings in maintenance costs and lost revenue

    How did they achieve this? A closer look at the training process after the implementation of smart glasses with TeamViewer Frontline answers this question.

    Training with smart glasses and TeamViewer Frontline – an AR- and AI-based approach
    With the use of smart glasses, employees benefit from hands-free step-by-step instructions while they perform the actual tasks they have been hired for. Not only do they start creating value almost instantly, they also do not depend on an experienced employee to support and supervise them for an extended time.

    This approach is especially relevant for activities such as correctly washing hands, wearing gloves, prepping meat and desserts, or calibrating instruments.

    Trainee workflow example:

    • A trainee puts on the smart glasses and logs in to the system with a personalized QR code.
    • A library with relevant trainings is displayed in the trainee’s vision field. Instructions can be displayed in a language the trainee feels comfortable, taking his or her skill level into account.
    • The trainee now chooses the relevant training via voice command.
    • Step-by-step instructions lead the trainee through a series of tasks, e.g., on how to prepare certain types of meat, follow hygiene instructions etc.
    • If AI-enablement is selected, the system can even help to check that the employee follows certain standards, for example the employee has to verify wearing gloves via the smart glass camera. The intelligent system will not let the employee perform the next step in his or her workflow without gloves.
    • Tips and best practices on how to achieve the desired result are explained via text, voice recording, or video.
    • Throughout the workflow, trainees can access additional information if they would like extra guidance. This is particularly helpful to people that have not worked with similar tasks before.
    • The trainee sees the desired outcome of a workflow as a picture to validate the current steps and to understand what to aim for.
    • Upon completing a training workflow, the trainee will be automatically led back to the main menu to repeat the training, start a new training, or continue without the guided instructions.

    The workflows created with smart glasses and TeamViewer Frontline are fully immersive, highly flexible, and in no way limited to the efficient onboarding of fresh staff. For example, they can also be used to upskill existing employees, teaching them new techniques or refreshing information around hygiene concepts regularly. Because of TeamViewer Frontline’s no-code approach, anyone with basic IT skills can create a training workflow, making this the perfect solution for industries that are unlikely to have IT staff on their payroll.

    Results and benefits
    The solution convinced customers with strong KPIs, positive employee feedback, high scalability, and flexibility in terms of regional needs.

    • While employee shadowing has its advantages, the AR-enabled smart glasses with clear audiovisual step-by-step information help make onboarding quicker and easier, cutting trainings time with up to 65% as compared to traditional training methods (e-learning, video-based learning).
    • Employee shadowing and workstation training both require a supervisor’s time and on-site presence. With AR-enabled training, it becomes possible to release a significant amount of time for qualified workers.  
    • The AR-based approach enables self-paced learning-by-doing. The employees follow a “Watch it, then do it” approach where they can repeat steps as often as they need to, which means people of different skill levels can be trained to perform their tasks with confidence.
    • Because the systems support creating various workflows in many languages, it offers a high level of flexibility to train employees with different language backgrounds. 

    Today, this solution is running on more than +500 devices across 5 continents. Many of the food sector customers that adopted this solution started out running a test of it first. Once the training had proven successful, they jumped into full projects rolled out globally. Select large cantinas even use it to enforce the unique food safety standard checks they have developed. With the AR-based smart glasses, trained off-site auditors can guide on-site employees to perform these checks correctly – without having to spend time on costly on-site visits.