Mark has devoted himself to participating in industry organizations, including the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) and the Better Vendors Association (BVA) buying cooperative, of which his father was a founding member. He was a BVA president and advocated its merger in 2009 with the Vendors Purchasing Council to form USG, of which he is currently a board member.
Bob Yeomans, owner of Central Vending Co., Inc,. in Janesville, Wis., has known the Steins for many years from the BVA. He noted that Mark has been helpful giving input to technology providers and information about the technology tools to vending operators. “(Mark) knows a lot of the people in the industry and he does a good job of using their talents to help the industry,” Yeomans said.
Daniel is immersed in a variety of community outreach initiatives. He sits on the corporate advisory committee of the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, which brings a wide range of partners together to promote healthy, active lifestyles for children. He is also deeply committed to sustainable business practices that reduce the environmental impact of Mark Vend’s operations. He spearheaded a multifaceted sustainability initiative, which includes dynamic routing to reduce the company’s truckloads and eliminate unnecessary machine visits. Mark Vend also installed Crane Merchant 6 machines and Revision Doors from Vendors Exchange International Inc., both of which feature LED lights that consume less energy.
Daniel has become an expert on the Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, assisting local companies with green construction plans. The company’s sustainability initiative also includes broad use of renewable packaging in its products, Web-based ordering, machines equipped with energy-management devices, and compostable cups.
Students of technology
Through industry organizations, Mark developed relationships with progressive operators in other regions and with product, equipment, and technology suppliers. Together they paid close attention to DEX technology as it emerged.
In the meantime, vending management software providers developed programs that relied on DEX technology. In 1990, Mark Vend became an early customer of Streamware Corp., a software company that has since been acquired by Crane Co.
“Once we chose Streamware, we pushed ourselves to get the best out of it,” Mark noted. While the company experienced some growing pains with its first major technological leap, ultimately the brothers found that Streamware helped tremendously with cash accountability and made compliance with the complicated Illinois sales tax much easier.
Still, Daniel reflected, “It’s not always fun being on the ‘bleeding edge.’”
Beginning with DEX-based cash accounting, the company graduated to item-level inventory tracking. DEX also set the foundation for pre-kitting and dynamic scheduling. After DEX-based reporting was introduced, the Steins introduced remote machine monitoring, using Cantaloupe System’s SEED software.
“They (key operating functions) all kind of fell like dominoes,” Daniel said. “We jumped into technology and then had to grow into it. We track the items sold, as well as money collected, through the use of data generated from each transaction completed in every machine.”
The Steins said their routes service 35 to 40 machines per day, allowing their drivers, who are paid on commission, to earn more.
“We also rely on online surveys and analyses of the buying habits of our customers,” Mark noted. “This information allows us to be the best micro-retailers possible, eliminating out-of-stock machines and consistently offering the most popular items.”
The Steins have also been proactive in introducing cashless readers, and they expect to have nearly 1,000 MEI cashless bezels this year. The brothers are optimistic that the industry will find a solution to the debit card fees announced under the Durbin amendment.
Meanwhile, self-checkout markets have emerged, and once again, the Steins are market leaders.