Technology Frustrates Vending Operators, But They Need It

Nov. 4, 2009

Recently, I received a lengthy letter from an operator I have known and respected over the years who in this blog, I will call Bob. Bob took some exception to a feature article in our September issue on pre-kitting routes. He has been in the business for more than 30 years and runs a large regional operation on the East Coast. Bob's letter went into great detail on the scenarios that an operator faces in trying to determine how to operate routes efficiently and at the same time keep machines stocked with products that customers want. He took exception to some of the claims that technology companies have made about ways to run routes more efficiently using prekitting. No one can assure any individual operator how to use technology successfully, and there are most likely operators who cannot. But based on the success some operators have reported, which Automatic Merchandiser has presented in recent years and in observing what has happened in other industries, operators who cannot use technology are not likely to succeed long term. The major retail organizations years ago underwent consolidation to achieve better economies of scale. The survivors emerged stronger players and they employed technology to optimize operating efficiencies. They also used it to develop reliable sales data that consumer product manufacturers use to develop better selling products.Vending operators need better management data to run their companies more profitably and to provide better sales data for consumer product manufacturers.Several technology players have emerged in the last five years that have demonstrated significant staying power in automatic merchandising. These players who show up year after year at trade shows have gained important insight about vending operations. The systems they offer require investment, training and commitment. The systems they offer require investment, training and commitment.