The observation of Scott Guardino, marketing manager at Paramount Automated Food Services Inc., Pompano Beach, Fla. is revealing: “It (DEX) has made some of the greatest people who have worked for me ‘dinosaurs.’” Conversely, some people he never thought would be productive have emerged as leaders.
Veterans of the transformation unanimously agree that achieving buy-in by employees is critical to realizing technology’s benefits. This calls on management to communicate effectively to employees and to closely monitor their responses.
Joe Cordaro, president of CRH Catering Co. in Connellsville, Pa., said in the early stages of introducing the pre-kitting, drivers’ attention gets diverted from focusing on their accounts.
Terry Hovis, a customer success manager at Cantaloupe Systems, said companies often switch drivers to salary during the deployment phase of pre-kitting.
Management must lead
“There will be tremendous push back; it’s a complete paradigm shift,” noted Tom Whennen, formerly president of Triple A Services Inc. in Chicago and now a management consultant.
Having overseen his company’s transition to pre-kitting, Whennen observed that automation forces every role in the company to be more customer focused. “Every person in our organization had some alignment with customers,” he said.
The challenge is daunting, but it also creates a new level of enthusiasm. However, owners need to be willing to make personnel changes when and if necessary.
One operator, for example, met resistance from his warehouse manager when the manager was told to use software generated machine pull reports. The manager resisted the change not because he hated technology; he thought the reports would be used to ultimately replace him.
When the owner realized this was the problem, he was able to explain to the manager that his role was more important than ever. This changed his attitude and allowed the company to pre-kit routes in the warehouse without having to experience a personnel change.
Automation makes learning easier
One of the greatest advantages operators realize after automating their route and warehouse operations is industry specific experience is not as important when hiring new employees. The new systems, once mastered, are easier to teach and to learn than the manual ones. Those operators who have become disillusioned with veteran vending employees say this is a great benefit.
Monumental Vending LLC in Beltsville, Md., which has pre-kitted routes for 12 years using Streamware software, recently hired a chief operating officer with no vending experience, noted Craig Kushner, president. That person has more diverse marketing skills, including an MBA.
The driver remains important
The route driver, while no longer deciding what products to pull from the warehouse, remains important, operators agree. Because pre-kitting and/or dynamic scheduling allow the driver to service more stops, the machine filling and cleaning skills remain important.
The driver’s new role is a subject of some dispute. Some operators want to see the drivers acting as customer service reps while at the location. Others believe this role belongs to sales people or dedicated client retention specialists.
“It (the business in general) is not as ‘social’ as it once was,” said Jim Brinton, owner of Evergreen Vending in Seattle, Wash., in observing that the driver is not expected to spend as much time with customers once pre-kitting is in place. While Brinton has attempted to improve customer contact through dedicated customer service reps, he believes that the business nonetheless has become more financially focused. “We’re becoming a different type of company,” he said. “We need to run it as a technologically driven company.”
Some operators noted that because drivers will service more stops on a given route, the physical demands are greater.
All operators agreed that driver compensation has to be reviewed after dynamic scheduling is in place. In most cases, commission arrangements were changed. Operators agreed that drivers earned more money with dynamic scheduling.
Operators also agreed that the introduction of DEX reporting on the route improved route accountability, allowing them to weed out dishonest drivers.