Whatever stage of development a vending operation is at -- beginning, growing, stagnant or declining -- vending management software offers an important tool for improvement. The only scenario where this would not be true is the company planning to sell or liquidate.
Industry specific software systems have existed for many years, and they have progressively offered more benefits. For vending operators that plan to grow, management software is a tool that will keep the company organized, allow it to operate efficiently, and help achieve maximum business results.
The challenge that most operators face is in making the time to learn their own company's information needs and the capabilities of the available software systems. Most vending companies do not have the resources to allocate an employee to studying and implementing software.
Once the information gathering process begins, however, it becomes easier as long as management remains committed to it.
A major investment that pays tangible dividends
It stands to reason that software, like any management tool, requires a significant investment. This in itself forces many operators to put off the decision to make the investment. In time, however, all sensible operators realize there is more to lose than gain in procrastinating.
It is easy for a software novice to become confused. New software products are introduced every year, making it seem like the amount of preparation is insurmountable. There is also the logical concern about investing in a product that will become obsolete.
A review of the major software packages indicates that most of today's packages provide significant benefits that will not become obsolete. While it is true that all of the system providers introduce upgrades regularly, these upgrades are not overly time-consuming and most of the work is handled by the software provider.
A key development in recent years has been the establishment of the uniform DEX (digital exchange) protocol; the electronic data standard that enables vending machines to report data to management software. Most vending specific software systems allow operators to use DEX.
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.
Operators who have not yet used vending management software will find that once they begin using it, the operation becomes better organized and improves its chances for increased profitability.
Learn the provider's capabilities
Companies that already have industry-specific software will find it necessary to determine if their software company's capabilities and plans for new products match the operator's business goals.
The investment in software is ongoing, and for a package to provide the necessary benefits, the provider needs to be able to deliver the customer's needs.
Software experts interviewed for this article agreed that operators should not only consider their existing information needs, but their future needs as well.
Consider your future needs
For instance, a company with three routes may not feel it can justify investment in a route inventory control system, but if that company hopes to some day grow to 10 routes, the investment will be justified.
A company also might not be sold on the benefits of category management, a system that simplifies product selection at the route and warehouse levels and gives management more control over individual machine menu. But if the company believes that this method might make sense in the future, it needs to have a data reporting system that will support it.
While it may be difficult to predict future information needs, a software system that offers a comprehensive package of management tools will be a better investment.