The screen displays programmed advertising when it is not in use.
Service technicians use the touchscreen to access service menus.
In a recent 8-month period, Next Generation placed all 20 of its Diji-Touch machines in existing locations, where they replaced glassfront snack machines. The company wanted to place the machines in existing banks in order to see how the machine can be integrated into its operations. This has also given the company the ability to compare the Diji-Touch’s performance against a traditional snack vender.
A controlled beta test
In introducing the Diji-Touch machines to customers, Next Generation agreed to keep most of the same products in the machines, and at the same prices, noted John Hickey, senior director of management information systems at Next Generation.
Because the Diji-Touch has 54 facings, the machine offers more variety than a traditional vender.
Hickey said the Diji-Touch has roughly doubled the sales of the older venders in multiple locations and delivered a sustainable uplift overall.
“It has significant lift to really make business sense,” noted Frank Guzzone, Kraft Vending & OCS business developing manager, strategy and innovation.
Next Generation has been able to integrate the Diji-Touch into its existing routes fairly easily, largely because the company was already pre-kitting its routes using remote machine monitoring.
Where most of Next Generation’s machines send DEX information by means of a Crane Streamware telemeter, the Diji-Touch machine sends the DEX information to Next Generation via an imbedded computer.
All of the ingredient and nutrition information, as well as the digital graphics, have been provided to Next Generation by Kraft. When new products are added, the product manufacturers send these materials to Kraft.
Hickey said adding graphics and information, known as “assets,” has not been difficult for Next Generation.
Seeing that Diji-Touch is a Kraft initiative, the question naturally arises: Does the vending operator have complete freedom to choose the products? Hickey said this has not been an issue for Next Generation.
“Data mining” is part of the Diji-Touch initiative. The data mining function is being managed by Blue World Inc., the vend data collection and rebate management provider.
Hickey said Next Generation has had to increase its stock keeping units (SKUs) to accommodate the Diji-Touch machine, but not significantly.
Managing stock keeping units paramount
The high level of SKU-level data that gets communicated to the customer by Diji-Touch makes SKU management critical, Hickey said. While the company was already focused on SKU management when it introduced pick and pack in the warehouse, the Diji-Touch test has forced the company to take SKU management to a new level.
“We have learned a lot about SKU discipline,” Hickey said. “In this (Diji-Touch) machine, you can’t allow a consumer to not get the exact product that shows up on the screen. That SKU discipline has to happen all the way through your supply chain.”
To this end, Next Generation has introduced the LightSpeed “pick to light” product picking in its Middleton, Mass. warehouse. This is an automatic picking system that uses lights to alert product pickers how much product to pick from a moving row of bins.
Hickey said one takeaway for him is the important role that computer skills will play in the future of vending management.
Mike Keating, Next Generation’s client relations manager for the Boston area, said he is surprised by the degree to which college students are reading the nutrition information on the Diji-Touch machine.
Impact on the customers has been significant.
“The excitement level was greater than I expected,” noted Darryl Perkins, Next Generation’s senior program manager for information systems. While the excitement has been strongest among children, it has also been noticeable with adults, he said.