Dan Hart, president of Southern Refreshment Services Inc. in Tucker, Ga., takes issue with the view that automation makes the driver’s job less mentally challenging. While the driver is not selecting product, he still needs to follow his order sheet and pay close attention to machine fill levels.
A simple fill mistake can undermine the inventory reports, Hart noted, and uncovering such a mistake can require a physical inventory. “It turns into a total mess,” he said.
While pre-kitting does bring advantages, Hart noted that it is less “forgiving” than the old system, whereby a driver could wait until his next service trip to correct a miscount.
To prevent such problems, Hart focuses heavily on driver training.
Route supervisor role changes
The route supervisor remains important to a company, but there is less need for making site inspections to make sure the right products and prices are in the machines. The DEX data enables the operator manage this in the warehouse.
“It completely changes how you supervise your business,” said Joe Cordaro, president of CRH Catering Co. in Connellsville, Pa., which recently began introducing Cantaloupe’s RMM. “You can actually delegate to people (supervisors) who were (previously) posting sales to monitor inventory. The skills are going to be completely different than what our industry is used to.”
Stansfield Vending in LaCrosse, Wis. has supervisors spending more time reviewing machine merchandising, noted Janet Stansfield Hess, president. “We have much, much greater merchandising control than we had before,” she said. “They (supervisors) work on getting the route averages up.
“There’s nothing about my business that’s the same,” added Hess, who claims a 40 percent efficiency gain as a result of RMM. The company uses Cantaloupe’s RMM (Seed) in conjunction with Validata’s vending management software. “I wouldn’t go back.”
Warehouse management becomes critical
Once pre-kitting is introduced, the warehouse manager’s role becomes more important in many companies. The warehouse assumes the responsibility for filling orders and in many cases also loading trucks. This changes the warehouse manager’s role from overseeing deliveries and keeping the warehouse organized to managing more functions.
When a larger staff of people become involved in the warehouse, the warehouse manager will need more managerial skills.
The need for oversight in the warehouse is important since mistakes in product counting will have consequences. The warehouse manager is responsible for making sure these errors are minimal.
“There is a finer level of detail they need to manage to,” observed John Davies, president of Vendsys, a vending system software provider.
Once product picking becomes automated by means of a “pick to light” system, managing accurate picking becomes easier.
Warehouse inventorying becomes more important since there is less inventorying on the trucks. A properly pre-kitted route returns to the warehouse with no inventory. “You should always have some form of physical reconciliation in inventory,” Vendsys’ Davies said.
Another area of agreement is the role of the route scheduler. What’s not uniform is which traditional position assumes this role, be it supervisor, general manager, operations manager or owner. The scheduling of routes on an as-needed basis becomes one of the most important efficiencies made possible by DEX.
Merchandising becomes critical
DEX provides machine-level, line item sales reports which allow operators to identify top selling products with far greater accuracy, and to customize offerings to individual locations. This, however, creates the need for a merchandise manager.
Merchandising requires a dedicated role, notes Terry Hovis, a customer success specialist at Cantaloupe Systems. “Merchandising isn’t just a one time thing,” he said. “There’s always going to be two drink selections out of nine that are specific to the (location’s) demographics.”
All Star Services Inc., Port Huron, Mich., agrees with this assessment, and plans to find someone to focus more on “mining” the data, said Jeff Smith, president and a 29-year industry veteran. “It (wireless pre-kitting) has affected our entire system,” said Smith, whose operation uses Cantaloupe’s RMM and is also using Lightspeed’s automated “pick to light” picking in the warehouse.