McDonald's Ice Cream Machines Might Finally Work If There's AI

McDonald's had a good run. For decades, it defined reliability in fast food. Wherever you are, a Big Mac is a Big Mac — and even when it added breakfast its to the menu, it kept the same consistent and predictable formula that made McDonald's a global force. It is consistently consistent, and perhaps that is why customers seem so outraged and let down when the ice cream machines are broken.

The mystery of the constantly malfunctioning McFlurry machines has had fast food fans and internet commenters puzzled for years. The debate has sparked separate investigations by Twitter users, major press outlets, and the FTC . There's even an online tool called McBroken which allows users in the U.S., Canada, Germany, and the U.K. to check which local branches are serving frozen treats.

These machines are also responsible for all McDonald's milkshakes — a sizable portion of the drinks menu. The fact that the ice cream machines are made for multitasking means that they have to be precise pieces of engineering — a.k.a. complex, hard to use, and temperamental.

However, if you are mad for milkshakes or a fiend for a McFlurry, there is hope on the horizon. Many of the reliability issues come down to how the machines are cleaned and maintained, and new AI tools seem set to solve these issues and make McDonald's ice cream machines as reliable as its burgers.

Why the machines aren't working and how AI can help

Just because the sign says "Ice Cream Machine is Broken," doesn't mean the ice cream machine is fully broken. For four hours each day, the machines run a cleaning cycle — that's 16.6% of the time, at the best of times. Cleaning isn't fully automated, and missing any of the 11 set-up steps can lead to a malfunction. Something as simple as too much mix in the machine during cleaning can cause outages that cost thousands of dollars in missed sales and servicing fees. Then, every two weeks, the entire machine needs to be taken apart, cleaned, lubricated, and put back together perfectly — yet another opportunity for disaster.

So how can AI fix this? Well, it already has. Per WIRED, a device designed in 2019 specifically to monitor this kind of ice cream machine, named Kytch, interpreted the machine's internal data in a way that allowed users to detect and avoid costly errors before they happened. Word spread like wildfire and sales began to take off, but then corporate stepped in, announced their own solution to the issue, and told all franchisees to stop using Kytch. A lawsuit on the matter is ongoing.

McDonald's ice cream machines might be complicated and fiddly, but if you give the people using them the proper information on what's wrong, many of the common issues that keep customers from getting their frozen treats can be eradicated. What a sweet AI future that could be.