With the many challenges facing the independent vending operator these days, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that significant progress has been made in operational management tools. So much, that even the smallest operator can work more efficiently and achieve greater profits.
Last month, technology expert Gene Ostendorf reviewed the functions of the two primary technologies that have evolved in the last decade, multi-drop bus (MDB) and data exchange (DEX). This month, we examine how a technology novice can utilize DEX.
Even if the company is operated by one individual, DEX can allow the owner to understand what’s happening in the machines much faster and with greater accuracy than by relying on physical inventorying.
The only operation that does not stand to benefit from implementing DEX is the one that does not plan to grow; the owner is close to retirement and is planning to sell or liquidate.
DEX is a tool that will keep the company organized, allow it to operate efficiently, and help achieve maximum business results.
WILL IT BECOME OBSOLETE?
Many operators worry that if they invest in technology, the technology will become obsolete. The fact of the matter is that with DEX, equipment manufacturers have created a uniform electronic code that will enable operators to add new features to their systems for many years to come. Once a vending operation’s information management systems are organized in a way that supports DEX, the company will be able to utilize future DEX-based benefits.
DEX HARDWARE VARIES
DEX is a tool that provides a new level of accountability at the machine, route and warehouse. The hardware that supports DEX includes handhelds, in-machine telemetry receivers, and telemetry. Operators have many choices in tools that support DEX.
Most operators utilizing DEX use handhelds. Technology has made it possible for operators to bypass handhelds and use remote machine monitoring instead. However, not all remote monitoring systems at the present time are compatible with all vending management software products.
The foundation for any DEX-based system is having machines capable of reporting DEX files. So the first step, whether the operator plans to use handhelds, in-machine receivers for remote monitoring or a combination of the two, is to determine how DEX-capable the machines are.
New machines are fully DEX capable while older machines often need DEX retrofit kits. Fortunately, there are devices sold by various software providers that will allow an operator to determine a machine’s DEX capability. Some will even provide this for free. Machines that do not report DEX to the commonly accepted level can be retrofitted to achieve this capability.
STANDARD REPORTING ITEMS
The standard reporting items in a DEX file are: coin mech fields, coin to tubes, coin to coin box, coin from tubes, total coins, total cash from bill validator, total vends, and total cash.
Another step that is necessary before introducing DEX is having cash and inventory collection systems in place that will allow DEX to deliver its unique benefits. The tool cannot be utilized in a business environment that has no use for improved accuracy and accountability.
CASH AND INVENTORY CONTROLS
The cash and inventory management systems are the basic tools that make a vending operation more efficient and profitable.
One of the great things about DEX is that operators can take advantage of the benefits one step at a time.
FIRST BENEFIT: METER READINGS
Recording machine meter readings electronically brings an immediate savings by giving the operator an accurate count of what cash should be returned from each machine.
This enables the operator to eliminate manually recorded meter readings. The accuracy of the data improves, and problems with illegibly completed route tickets and service logs are eliminated. The time saved can allow some routes to be consolidated.
If the driver is using a DEX handheld to record the meter readings, he does this by plugging the DEX cable on the handheld into the DEX port on the machine.