Business Intelligence Merges With Consumers’ Most Personal Networks: Are We Connecting?

When I first came to Automatic Merchandiser, management software systems were largely DOS based. Operators used Excel spreadsheets that took hours to prepare. By the time they got all the information inputted, much of it was weeks old.The vending industry was far afield from a revolution taking place in inventory management. But working for a publishing company, I was aware of buzzwords like JIT (just in time delivery), EDI (electronic data interchange) and QR (quick response).The big retail companies were expanding in this emerging field, and they were driving their product suppliers to follow them.Times have certainly changed, and for the better. Hardware and software have evolved. The capabilities have multiplied, and costs have fallen. Industries dominated bysmaller companies such as vending and coffee service have benefited.Nowadays its just as easy for a small company to implement a real time inventory control program as a big company. A small company can analyze, manage, share and distribute data as quickly as a large one. Hosted cloud computing has been a big driver.Vending management software still only scratches the surface of modern business intelligence systems, but this is not important.The important point is that vending is adapting technology at an opportune time. The infrastructure that vending operators are installing to support pre-kitting, category management and cashless payment will allow them to manage their businesses better and serve a more technology savvy consumer.Smart phones are going mainstream. Cashless payment is replacing cash. Digital signage is on the horizon.All of these developments overlap each other.Time doesnt stand still. Data generated by social media will allow service providers to react even faster to customer needs.Today, the vending industry faces new cost pressures that make it imperative to convert to computerized management. Fortunately, these systems are affordable and learning them is not beyond the grasp of reasonably educated persons.Todays consumers are relying on their smart phones for just about every aspect of their lives. Service providers who want to be relevant to consumers must know learn how to be part of their networks.