Miller hired his first employee to pick snacks for the snack machines. At that time, he didn’t see the need to pre-kit the other products.
Last year, Miller introduced CompuVend software to generate pick lists for all of his machines. He hired a computer specialist to develop a network of display screens using battery-powered wireless screens. The screens display pick lists in the warehouse for employees to use to load totes.
Miller’s par levels are based on historic sales information. The software generates more accurate pick lists, resulting in his trucks returning with only 10 to 15 percent left in the snack totes. Since adding vending management software, he has begun to pre-kit the gum and mint, motel sundries, cold food and beverages.
Pre-kitting has made a huge difference to H & L Tom’s Distributors Inc. in Virginia Beach, Va., according to Rick
Matthews, owner. The company, which has three routes year round and five during the school year, is more profitable despite a 10 percent drop in sales over the past year. Pre-kitting has helped to reduce operating costs to offset the drop in revenue.
“Everything that’s in there (the vehicle) is going to be in the machine today,” Matthews said. He has also been able to replace step vans with more fuel efficient (and comfortable) cargo vans. Both the company and the employees have benefitted.
Matthews custom designed his own Windows-based pre-kitting software. It has taken him five years to pre-kit all of his routes. His drivers use a cellular phone to send him machine data for all machines on the route. He then determines the quantities of each item to pack to refill each machine. Managing product par levels in conjunction with dynamic scheduling is key to the operation.
“The route man doesn’t make any decisions,” Matthews
said. He noted that all delivery vans leave full and return empty. He hopes to eliminate the need for drivers to send data from the location by introducing RMM. He plans to install RMM devices from InOne Technology in the machines. He is presently working on the software that will allow the InOne device to automatically download to his management software.
TECHNOLOGY MAKES PRE-KITTING MORE FEASIBLE
“The accuracy of pre-kitting (without RMM) was questionable,” noted Terry Hovis, director of implementation and customer care at Cantaloupe Systems, which provides RMM solutions. “Forecasting (without RMM) is an educated guess.” RMM, he said, eliminates the need for forecasting since you have current data to use to determine par levels. “The end result is a very accurate pre-kit,” he said.
Hovis said operators using RMM are scheduling their warehouses to pick orders in the evening so they can use more current data.
Most operators have observed that pre-kitting is more critical in the snack machine since there is more variety there than in other machines.
Atlanta Vending in Atlanta, Ga. recently pre-kitted two routes, noted Barton Shaw, co-owner. The company began pre-kitting after installing Cantaloupe Seed boxes (RMM devices) on most snack and drink machines. Shaw said the Seed boxes provide accurate and timely data to allow the warehouse to determine accurate par levels for both snacks and drinks.
The drivers pick up the pre-picked snack totes in the warehouse and load the cold drink cases, which are not pre-picked.
Shaw tested pre-kitting prior to installing RMM, but he was concerned about the accuracy of the data. “They (the data) are estimates of what the machine will need and not (based on) actual machine usage,” he said. “It’s not as accurate as telemetry (RMM) data.”
Shaw believes the timely and accurate data RMM provides is even more important during periods when a changing economy is impacting sales. An RMM-based system removes the need for someone to review machine par levels.
D &R Canteen, a 20-route operation in Rochester, Minn., introduced pre-kitting to its dedicated soda route, noted Stu Riemann, general manager. The drivers download data on MEI Easitrax DEX handhelds. Par levels are based on monthly history on an individual location basis. The truck leaves the warehouse full and returns empty.