The recovery begins as vending reinvents itself

It’s hard to believe we’re fast approaching the mid point of 2011.

The months speed by fast when you’re trying to keep up with the pace of change in our industry.

We began the year taking stock of the tools that are changing the way we do things. With our January/February issue, we ran a story titled, “Vending reinvented,” to characterize what is taking place.

In November/December of 2010, we set the foundation for “vending reinvented” with a cover story on United Vending, a small operation in Wall, N.J. From a tiny beverage distribution franchise, this family business grasped the importance of item level product tracking, learned the tools as the tools evolved, and eventually optimized their use of these tools.

“Vending reinvented” began in January/February with an article summarizing how new technology changes traditional job roles. In March, “Vending reinvented” part 2 examined the software reports that guide decisions large and small. In April, part 3 reviewed the progress of Diji Touch, an interactive machine developed by Crane, Kraft and Samsung.

This month, in part 4, software consultant Glenn Butler describes the capabilities of merchandising software in vending.

We can envision tools like prekitting, dynamic scheduling and dynamic merchandising as spokes in a “wheel of progress.”

Holding together the spokes in this “wheel of progress” is item level product tracking. It’s safe to say that vending operators not committed to item level product tracking will not survive.

In our April story on Diji Touch, officials at Canton, Mass.-based Next Generation Vending & Food Services Inc. noted the importance of accurate item level management in utilizing the Kraft Diji Touch machine’s unique merchandising power.

In this month’s cover story, Norwood, Mass.-based Foley Food & Vending similarly notes item level tracking, particularly in the warehouse, holds an important key to the self checkout market, another merchandising powerhouse.

All of these tools have been developed through trial and error over the past several years.

The Coca-Cola Co. pioneered DEX in the early Eighties. Vending software suppliers worked with equipment OEMs on uniform DEX protocols.

Software providers worked with operators to develop DEX-based management reports. For operators, learning new methods wasn’t easy. In many cases, job functions had to change. Change is rarely easy. But it was all worthwhile.

Today, software providers offer products that are field proven and affordable. Early adopters have hit the ground running and are running circles around the competition. Our industry is being reinvented. And a recovery is under way.