Workflows, as explained by Hollywood

3 minutes to read

By Dan Patt, CEO Vecna Robotics

At Vecna Robotics, we choose workflows over robots.

It may seem odd for a robotics company to be advertising that there is something more important than robots, but we recognize that real customer value does not come from the latest technology, but from performing operations more efficiently and being able to adapt to the changes the future will bring.

Explaining the concept of workflows can be a challenge. The simplest explanation: workflows are the engine of every business that deals with physical goods. They are the sequence of events and compilation of resources (people, facilities, and machines) that get materials from point A to point B. They drive the operating budget, and they should drive the value of the business.

Explained by Hollywood 

I think the idea is best illustrated by Hollywood – and the movie The Founder. Brilliantly written by Robert Siegel and directed by John Lee Hancock, the movie tells the story of Ray Kroc and the restaurant chain McDonald’s.

My favorite sequence is the one that describes the development and refinement of the SpeeDee service system. Dick and Mac McDonald know that their restaurant chain can achieve competitive advantage through faster service and that this will require operations research. Vividly, the movie portrays an extended sequence of equipment layout and labor experimentation that ultimately leads to the highest performing restaurant in history to that date.


A logically engineered workflow. Resource by resource, neatly laid out in the footprint of a fast food restaurant. Photo copyright of The Founder movie (2016).


Through careful observation of the dynamics of handoffs, motions, people and machines, the workflow is tuned to improve throughput, reduce lag and enhance customer satisfaction. Photo copyright of The Founder movie (2016). The full movie clip is available to view: here


The movie scene highlights the importance of looking at the entire operation. Dick and Mac McDonald understood their speed of service would be determined, not on the individual ability of their resources but on how those resources effectively worked together as one harmonious unit. Your productivity correlates to the effectiveness of your resources, but the effectiveness of your resources is dependent on their availability and accessibility. A state-of-the-art griddle might cook a burger at record speed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will get to your customers in record time. How you organize the steps before, during, and after the burger is made will ultimately determine how fast it gets to your customer.

Look at the entire operation

Automating just one step in a process through buying a robot isn’t enough. Sure, you can enhance efficiency and get a return on investment, but the real advantage comes from rethinking the entire operation – the entire workflow.

That’s why at Vecna Robotics, we’ve invested years in not only making great robots but also in our orchestration engine – Pivotal – that will harmonize your workflow and combine the efforts of humans and machines to provide continuously improving performance.

Human ingenuity is indeed a part of great workflow design. But, advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence in the form of an orchestration engine will make the resources within your material workflow work in harmony, even as demand fluctuates and new robots enter the market.

Today, we do not need to lay out our operation on tennis courts to see how each step affects the others. Advanced analytics and AI are here to help us – to bring systems, robots, and humans together in the ultimate material workflow.


About Vecna Robotics

Learn about Vecna Robotics’ entire fleet of self-driving vehicles from our Automated Material Handling and Hybrid Fulfillment brochures. Vecna will be displaying a wide range of vehicles, including its autonomous Tugger and Pallet Jack at booth #S4583. We’ll be showcasing our Automated Material Handling, Hybrid Fulfillment, and Workflow Optimization solutions, along with the self-driving vehicles and technology that fuels them.