Investing In Technology Requires Ongoing Supplier/Operator Partnerships

May 9, 2012
There are more operators looking for new technology solutions today than any time in the vending industry’s history.

There are more operators looking for new technology solutions today than any time in the vending industry’s history. This bodes well for the industry’s future.
It also calls on operators to put their best decision making skills to use in selecting a supplier.

After the OneShow, I received calls from operators looking to invest in new technology asking my opinion about the different providers that exhibited their wares. I told them investing in technology requires more of a partnership than buying product or equipment. I suggested they spend more time getting to know prospective partners before deciding who to partner with.

I can safely say that most technology providers that exhibit at vending trade shows regularly have good products and possess a good understanding of customer needs.

But when I get this question from operators, I suggest they pay attention to how much a provider asks them about their business before talking about what products they need.
Many of the new technology products, such as cashless readers and remote machine monitoring, require a certain amount of change in a company’s operating procedures. Hence, for a system to be successful, the operator must be prepared to change some operating procedures.

When introducing pre-kitting to the warehouse, for example, it’s not unusual for a warehouse to be reorganized and for supervisors’ and route drivers’ responsibilities to change. When introducing cashless systems, someone has to keep track of credit and debit balances with financial institutions and integrate this information with cash accounting.

Making changes like this requires having staff capable of adapting to change.

Operators also need to know a provider’s ability and willingness to meet their ongoing needs. Some operators need more “hand holding” with new technology than others. Technology providers have varying ongoing support capabilities.

As with all business relationships, personalities come into play. No technology provider I am aware of has been successful with all operator customers. Nor has any provider always failed.

And as with all businesses, provider capabilities change. Demands on their resources change, and capabilities change in accordance with staff changes.

Partnerships are successful based on a high level of communication between two parties. No single technology provider will have the same level of communication with all operator customers.