Line item reporting has many benefits. One that Robinson sees as especially important is product profitability. With manufacturers raising prices frequently, keeping track of product profits has become more difficult.
Tracking item profitability is possible without DEX reporting, Robinson noted, but it is much harder.
Another key benefit has been determining the right machine fill levels on a per location basis.
Line item sales reports also allow him to measure customer response to new products faster.
DEX improves planograms
DEX offers a good management tool since it allows an operator to enforce his planograms on the routes.
“Everything’s where it should be according to the handheld,” Robinson said.
Robinson was using a planogram prior to introducing DEX handhelds, but that planogram only covered about half the items in the snack machine. With a manual accounting system, it was too tedious to track product sales daily. Hence, he allowed drivers to select half of the snack items for their locations.
DEX, by contrast, gives Robinson more control over what gets pulled from the warehouse. DEX-based reports generate a pick list for the drivers based on daily machine sales.
The daily reports also allow Robinson to know when buying habits are changing. It is always hard to know exactly when seasonal shifts are occurring, such as when chocolate sales start to drop off in the early summer.
“It has made me concentrate on different items,” he said regarding the sales reports.
Robinson has been converting his routes to DEX one at a time. He started with his least efficient driver.
Where many operators first use DEX handhelds to improve cash accountability, this wasn’t a concern for Robinson.
He is fortunate to have drivers he can trust with cash.
Nevertheless, he is able to tie cash collected to line item sales reports as well as to the DEX cash meter readings.
Where many operators only use DEX to manage their snack and cold drink machines, Robinson has used it on his hot beverage machines as well. As hot drink selections have increased, he wants to know that the best selling products are in the machine.
“If you’re not selling almond amaretto, get it out and try something else,” Robinson said.
In accounts with a lot of Portuguese employees,
Robinson was able to learn quickly that certain retail coffee brands were not selling well.
The hot beverage segment has suffered the most in recent years, which Robinson attributes to competition from other retail outlets.
The only segment where Robinson doesn’t see installing DEX is in his carousel food machines. He said the carousel food machines can’t report item level sales. He does use DEX in his glassfront food machines.
DEX positions the company for long-term growth
DEX has better positioned the company for long-term growth. “He (Robinson) will be able to grow and still give the same detailed attention to this larger business as he does now to his current business,” Davies, the software supplier, said
One of the myths about handhelds and technology is that the driver’s job becomes less demanding. Both Robinson and Davies agree that it takes someone who can understand what the system is trying to achieve and how it works, as well as being diligent in following the process and making accurate data inputs where required.
Scott DeMolles, Robinson’s second driver to begin using DEX handhelds, agreed that learning how to use it takes time. DeMolles recognizes the system’s ability to determine the right fill level for every machine, and he understands why this is important.
By filling to the right par level, the company doesn’t waste time removing product and returning it to the warehouse and sending it out again, DeMolles said. He also recognizes that additional product handling runs the risk of damaging the product.
Robinson said it takes a driver two weeks to get used to a DEX handheld. At first, the handheld slows the driver down since he’s not used to it. After two weeks, the driver is doing his job faster without sacrificing customer service.
Handhelds also change the role of management. “There is a shift in labor practices in tandem with technology,” Davies said. “Part of the implementation of technology is restructuring your labor to match.”