Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to a management gathering for one of the Cleveland areas largest vending operations, the Cuyahoga Group, based in Maple Heights, Ohio. Company owner Jimmy Variglotti asked me to share my ideas about the challenges the industry faces and how vending operations can best prepare themselves for the future.When I finished gathering my thoughts, I realized the industry today requires a company to prepare itself for opportunities that are being created by new technologies, such as cashless transactions, remote machine monitoring, LED lighting, video touchscreens, energy control devices, etc.The industry is in a transition stage, and companies that want to be successful are investing in these new technologies.Managing routes using DEX data does not reduce the human element in a vending operation, I noted. On the contrary, it magnifies it.Technology is not only changing the business for vending operators and OCS operators. It is changing things for brokers, distributors and manufacturers as well.I noted that the success companies have when introducing new technologies relies more on the commitment of the employees than any single factor.Employees have always been the backbone of refreshment services. But as technology brings new challenges, human resources take on even more importance in our industry.Automatic Merchandiser offers readers an opportunity to recognize those very important skills in its annual Readers Choice People of the Year Awards.Readers should nominate the vending operator, coffee service operator, broker, distributor and manufacturer that best exemplifies professionalism in our industry. Voting closes on Oct. 7, 2011.Winners will be featured in the November/December issue of Automatic Merchandiser.To fill out an online ballot, go to: http://www.vendingmarketwatch.com/awards/people-of-the-year.