The numbers are in and they do look good for the hospitality industry which consists of hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality-related services. According to Forbes, profitability in the hospitality industry is finally on the increase after the slump of previous years. The report further stated that the net profit margins for full-service restaurants grew by approximately 6% which is 3.8% more than the previous year. The National Restaurant Association expects this growth to continue but early wins must also be consolidated if this is to be achieved. And this is where Digital Twin Technology comes into play.
With the expected growth figures also comes challenges and in the hospitality industry, these challenges generally include fending off the competition and enhancing operations to reap increased rewards. In terms of competition in the hospitality industry, the following statistics paint a clearer picture. In 2018, approximately 60,000 new restaurants and lounges were opened in the United States while 50,000 either filed in for chapter 11 or were closed down for other reasons. Although at the end of the year, the industry grew with the addition of 10,000 restaurants, this mass closure still highlights the competitive nature of the industry.
The competitiveness in the hospitality industry is turning many small and large scale stakeholders to turn to emerging technologies to ease operational deficiencies. This is why today, the hospitality industry has become one of the major drivers of innovation in robotics, artificial intelligence, digital visualization, and the internet of things (IoT). The aim is to collect data from every aspect of a hotel or restaurants operational chain and use that data to receive the business insights needed to stay ahead of the competition.
Today, most hotels make use of interconnected devices to simply customer requests and analyze their peculiarities in order to deliver bespoke services. Examples of this include the use of concierge robots by the Hilton group and the design of smart hotels by Marriot and other stakeholders.
And to what benefits?
Integrating digital technology in the hospitality industry has led to a 40% increase in revenue for online travel agencies (OTAs) who streamline and personalize their services for customers. In brick and mortar hospitality facilities like the Marriot hotels, its financial report of 2018, highlighted a 38 percent increase in revenue with emerging technologies playing a starring role in simplifying operations. This led Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriot, to state that ‘digital transformation is not only speeding up every aspect of our business, but it is also broadening operations’. And this transformation, as well as, the benefits they bring can be broadened much further with the integration of Digital Twin technology.
What is A Digital Twin?
A digital twin refers to virtual representations of physical products, systems, facilities and the processes that occur in them. The technology can be used to create digital replicas of actual physical assets and processes and also integrate potential assets onto the created virtual environment. This means every asset that functions in a shop floor including devices or equipment and all business operation or process can be recreated in a digital environment.
Digital twin environments also create an enabling environment for testing new business policies, operations, and assets to access their performance levels before any physical implementation is undertaken. When put beside the recent adoption of smart technology in the hospitality industry, it is easy to see why digital twin technology is the solution every stakeholder has been waiting for to broaden business operations.
One of the major features of the digital twin is its ability to virtualize every asset and process that occurs in an environment. In the hospitality industry, these assets may include; the smart devices used in rooms, check-in and check-out points, robots, the equipment used for logistics and supply chain management, inventories, and every process that produces data. This means when correctly deployed, a digital twin can recreate assets and processes from the deepest parts of a hospitality system in a digital ecosystem.
The Digital Twin and Enhancing the Hospitality Industry
The easiest way to understand how digital twin technologies can be leveraged to gain an edge over the stiff competition in the hospitality industry is through case studies and CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. provides an example.
CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. digital twin Story is one that showcases how harnessing digital twin technology and virtual reality can be used to test and implement new operational policies within the hospitality industry. In its case, CKE recreated hundreds of assets and kitchen configurations using the digital twin with the aim of deciding the best configuration that will increase productivity in its Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants. With the aid of Simio’s digital twin solutions, restaurant floors and kitchens were digitized which provided the perfect environment for reorganizing shop floor assets to reduce employee traffic and create an enabling environment for customers.
To achieve the level of detail needed to accomplish this task, CKE had mapped out every production aspect that occurs within a restaurant down to the plate cleaning process. With this data, accurate simulations could be executed which yielded highly-accurate results. Thus, integrating new equipment and testing how they function with other variables and assets within the restaurant was made possible. This meant receiving accurate business insight into new policies and the effects of introducing new assets before effecting a physical implementation.
According to Forbes, the integration of Simio’s digital twin helped CKE Restaurants, Holding, Inc. manage hundreds of simulations that consisted of the introduction of diverse assets and processes into the digital model. This allowed the restaurant to predict the effects of introducing approximately ten new equipment to the shop floor, as well as, test the efficiency levels of five layouts for the kitchen. The use of a digital twin also helped analyze new designs that would assist CKE with easing the workload on employees which would lead to higher employee retention in an industry notorious for low retention rates.
The example of CKE Holdings, Inc. still leaves the question of if the digital twin can enhance operations in larger more complex facilities. The short answer to this is, definitely yes!
Digital twin technologies have been made use of in large industrial settings such as Nestlé’s and Boeing facilities to implement new ideas and enhance production. Although these examples highlight the importance of digital twin technology, the focus is on the hospitality industry which leads to the longer answer.
In the large hotels with 300 rooms and above, more operational processes occur that dwarf the example highlighted in the CKE case study. These processes include; logistics and supply chain management, tracking the orchestration of hundreds of customers, power consumption, and correctly assigning workplace assets to meet demand. Other smaller systems within a large hotel’s immediate environment are the valet and parking system, concierge system, and manual workflows.
As stated earlier, digital twin solutions are capable of recreating diverse assets, processes and system in a virtual environment when correctly applied. This actually makes the digital twin a solution custom-built for large hotels where the need to keep track of multiple processes within a system while implementing new ideas is a regular occurrence. With the aid of the digital twin, every data produced in large facilities can be collected and analyzed against the different assets within the system. This gives the system integrator or manager a contextual insight into every aspect of running a hotel facility in real-time.
Furthermore, the digital twin of large hotel facilities can be used to run both discrete and continuous event simulations to better understand the events occurring in different systems. A discrete event simulation can be used to test how the implementation of building of an additional check-out point at the parking lot will ease driving and foot traffic before a physical implementation is considered. Also, a simulation of the power consumption that occurs within the facilities can provide insight into which assets or processes can be periodically shutdown to reduce consumption.
The benefits of Adopting Digital Twin in the Hospitality Industry
Although the earlier case studies provide an insight into the benefits of the digital twin to the hospitality industry, more information is sometimes needed when making decisions. In this case, the decision to be made is choosing to enhance operations using digital twin solutions.
One of the important benefits of integrating a digital twin is the clarity of purpose it provides to facility managers and hotel owners. The use of a digital twin means decisions no longer has to be made in the dark. An accurate digital twin built with every asset, process, and data coming from a hotel or restaurant is the perfect environment for testing out anything before implementation. The test can be as extensive as analyzing the effects of a new equipment transportation system or how automating a business process will turn out. The test can also be as little as analyzing how changes in shelf heights will increase employee productivity.
Another important challenge hospitality businesses face involves the reduction of operational expenses without having to reduce the quality of services offered. Here again, the insight a digital twin provides can be helpful with reducing waste. An example of this is the use of the digital twin by KONE, an elevator company. KONE makes use of digital twin technology to understand how people move through buildings and the decisions they take when riding an elevator. The knowledge gotten from the use of a digital twin helped the company cut out three to four minutes from the average elevator commute. This, in turn, reduced maintenance cost and increased productivity for building owners.
KONE’s case study highlights the fact that hotel owners can make use of the digital twin and scheduling software to analyze commutes, reception traffic, kitchen and dry cleaning process with the aim of increasing workforce productivity. The model can also be used to enhance customer experience by reducing commute from the reception floor to hotel rooms. As for restaurants, this can be taken further to simplify the drive-through process and increase worker efficiency thereby eliminating waste.
The journey to a smarter hospitality industry also provides the perfect environment for enhancing productivity and providing seamless experiences for customers. Embedded devices and IoT solutions can be used to map out customer attractions and the areas that witness more customer traffic. With this information, simulations run through the digital twin can create optimized schedules for visitation periods. This will ensure that customers do not wait in long queues before being able to access areas of attraction within a facility.
Carving a Niche in the Competitive Hospitality Industry
Staying afloat in the hospitality industry in order to reap a part of its staggering $550billion revenue requires some effort. These efforts consist of creating an efficient system that takes care of every need of the customer. With advancements in technology, the task of creating that system has become more streamlined and visible to business owners. The digital twin offers visibility and the ability to access real-time information before designing or recreating efficient systems.
CKE Restaurant Holdings, Inc.’s use of Simio’s digital twin solutions provides an excellent case study that highlights how important digital twin is to the transformation of the hospitality industry. With these solutions business owners can better access both small and large scale operational process and enhance these process to the benefit of your customers. You can learn more about the competitive edge the digital twin offers your hospitality and restaurant facilities by speaking to a Simio representative today.