Miller attributed Multi-max’s success its specialization in the 20- to 100-person office route, which he sees as an underserved market – too small for the giants and too big for the mom-and-pop operators. Today, there are over 5,000 Multi-max units in the U.S. and an almost equal number outside of this country. Fewer than 200 companies own these machines. This relatively small group of entrepreneurs share and communicate their common interests and experiences.
Miller recently ansered a series of questions to provide a closer look at the reasons behind his company’s resilience and growth.
Q: Why did you build your own machines rather than buy existing equipment?
A: Multi-max is focused on the mid-size office vending market for snacks and beverages. We built our own equipment because there was and still is no profitable way to service this market due to the lack of sophisticated controls in yesterday’s and today’s vending machines. DEX was a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough to meet what we perceive to be the needs of this market. Multi-max uses a cassette load design that dramatically increases service efficiency, lowers stale loss, and allows merchandising the machine in response to market demand. None of these features were available in previous generations of vending equipment and still aren’t. Yet the cost factor between traditional machines and ours is almost nil. In addition, Multi-max recognized the need to stretch beyond just snacks and soda vending to items like single cup coffee. Today, we have the only working solution for vending Keurig K-Cups using our VM816. This machine has been tested and approved by Keurig. In addition to our existing pod vendor there are solutions for Flavia by Mars, and Tassimo by Kraft coming soon.
Q: The improvements you made to your equipment, (i.e. card reading, inventory control, etc.): weren’t these features available in existing machines?
A: The improvements we made to Multi-max machines were not and still are not available in any vending machines since many of our improvements are patented.
Q: Do Multi-Max Machines have DEX (supply chain and inventory management software) and MDB (file format) and remote machine management?
A: Yes, Multi-max machine have all of these features. In addition to DEX, we include transaction-level data recording allowing for things like time-of-day pricing which DEX cannot handle. Our VM813 control station uses MDB as well as being the only unit that features a full-size changer and still fits on a counter and under cabinets (typically 18 inches) in a kitchen setup. Our Multi-max Pro software is a huge part of the overall system and interacts with all routing, inventory management, machine management and data management needs.
Q: Are there other selling points of Multi-Max Machines?
A: They make money for operators in locations no other machines can. Isn't that the only selling point worth discussing? The vending business is getting more competitive. The costs of everything from corn to gasoline and labor are rising. At the same time there is a trend towards companies having many small offices as opposed to fewer large ones. Multi-max machines are uniquely positioned to take advantage of all these factors.
Q: What role did printed circuit board (PCB) design play in these improvements?
A: We had to design and build our own PCB because we believe the future of vending is the same as it is for all electronics: it must be compatible with your PC. These days people expect that everything they buy can be plugged in, synced, downloaded, upgraded, and or controlled by their PC. Why should our vending machines be any different? Our custom circuit boards include USB for communication as well as data storage, more flexibility with upgrades and the horsepower to do more than just run the vending units.
Q: Would it be possible to retrofit these assets into existing machines – by replacing circuitry or other minor modifications? Or does it require a whole new redesign?
A: Multi-max has recently started looking at ways to retrofit our technology to legacy machines. While this is not one of our main areas of business right now, as we grow, it will be getting more and more attention.
Q: Could you provide chronological details of Multi-max logistics?