Several operators have switched software providers based on new information needs and/or the quality of service their previous provider gave them. In many cases, the operators found the additional cost of making a change to be justified.
Just how much making a switch will cost depends on what else the company is doing in conjunction with this change.
A company that is introducing DEX handhelds to the drivers, moving product selection from the drivers to the warehouse, and also moving from one provider to another will experience more disruption than the company that is making the same changes with its existing provider.
But for every cost there is often a corresponding benefit.
Coastal Canteen Inc., based in Oxnard, Calif., switched software systems in 2000 to be able to track item-level inventory, said Jerry Scott, general manager. The MEI system enabled him to implement DEX handhelds on the routes, and he is currently testing remote machine monitoring at five locations.
Software forces better organization
Bob Johnson, a former vending software executive who is now a financial adviser based in Milwaukee, Wis., said the house cleaning involved in switching software providers results in a better organized company. "It almost has to be forced on you," he said.
In switching a provider, the operator has to keep in mind that the new system might require new procedures, and for more than one employee. The switch will bring more problems than solutions if the people using the information aren't willing (or able) to adapt.
Unrealistic expectations can also present problems.
How much difference is there among the main software packages?
Stewart Lester, a contract sales rep for MEI and a former vending operator, said there are differences in how much detailed information a system will report.
In selecting a package, all experts recommended consulting with other operators who have used the different products and find out not just what the system capabilities are, but the level of aftermarket support and the quality of customer service.
The five key areas of inventory control
- Purchases from suppliers
- Product in truck
- Product in warehouse
- Product in machine
- From warehouse to truck
Like vending, OCS software continues to offer new benefits
OCS operators have long used software systems to manage their routes more efficiently. Route handhelds in particular have found a place in OCS operations, since the driver can print an invoice at the account and collect the cash. Automation eliminates paperwork, improves accuracy of pricing and sales taxes, and enhances the management of special promotions.
New products continue to emerge.
NationalDatacomputer Inc., a provider of mobile computing solutions, recently announced a reseller agreement with inOne Technology LLC for its RouteRider LE. Featuring a graphical user interface, the RouteRider LE allows a field sales rep to communicate via cellular and wireless telemetry, allowing the rep to access up-to-the-minute information on the account from any browser. The device allows field reps to spend more time selling and servicing customers by automating the ordering and accounting functions.
E-commerce products have been available for vending and OCS operators alike for several years. One product, known as OCS Access (www.ocsaccess.com), supports vending and OCS back-end systems, including ChallengeMaster, InOne Technology, and MEI.
OCS Access allows OCS clients to place orders over the Internet, even if the OCS provider does not have a website. The software allows the order to be written directly into the OCS operator's backend system.
For companies that do not have accounting software, orders can be simply routed to the operator's e-mail address.
For More information, contact:
ChallengeMaster - 800-888-1972
Crane Streamware - 800-4STREAM
Data Intelligence Systems - 800-627-0002
InOne Technology LLC - 800-426-1487
MEI - 800-345-8215
National DataComputer Inc. - 978-663-7677
Validata Computer & Research Corp. - 334-834-2324