8 Essential Integration Questions To Ask Before Investing In Technology

April 22, 2019

Technology is an ever-moving target these days in convenience services. One of the technologies I get asked about quite often is my favorite vending management system (VMS). Because I am not tied to any one VMS company, answering this question is complicated. There are several great VMS companies who have worked hard to build a complete and all-around system. The successful VMS companies are the ones who listen to their customers for feedback, so they can understand and build the software to fit the customer instead of the customer to fit the software. There are some one-stop-shop software providers who have a solution for all things industry wide, and there are some that do certain things very well for operators, but there are holes in the software for manual entry. To assist in selection, here are some out-of-the-ordinary points to consider when choosing a VMS provider. 

Prekitting ability 

  • Does the VMS system offer an all-inclusive system that includes telemetry, card readers and the ability to prekit? Prekitting is the most efficient way of fulfilling vending machines.

  • Does it integrate with LightSpeed Automation? Lightspeed is a robust warehouse picking system out there for efficiency and technology and used by many operators. It saves time on the picking process by using automation technology. No paper needed! 

  • Will the prekitting process work with multiple telemetry systems or is it proprietary? It should work with several manufacturers so that you don’t have to throw away good equipment like card readers or telemetry units because it is proprietary and won’t integrate with the VMS. 

Kiosks integration 

  • Will the back-end software send the data to your VMS? I hear lots of “manual” transfers to and from markets to relieve the inventory from their VMS warehouse inventory because the two systems do not talk. A good all-around system should work with most of the market kiosk companies as to avoid manual entries and transfers. 

  • If you use the LightSpeed picking system, does the data get sent from the kiosk sales to LightSpeed so it can be picked through the system efficiently? 

  • Does it offer a complete system? Can you manage kiosks on the same system without having to use a separate system for inventory, sales data, routing, etc.? 

  • Get a list of all kiosks that will integrate into the VMS that you are considering. 

  • Ask how long it takes and how often you get your funds from the credit card processing system. You will want your money as fast as possible.  

  • Does your kiosk company of choice offer tablets, smaller size kiosks and app-only systems? How do those fit into the system?

  • Can the kiosks talk to each other at the same account? Some kiosks are stand-alone units. On larger accounts, schools, multi-locations and multi-level accounts, a customer should be able to use the same card fob, fingerprint and account at multiple kiosks within the same account/ customer. This must be able to flow into the VMS for accurate inventory recordkeeping.

Merging VMS data  

  • If you sell your business, will the buyer have to replace all your telemetry units and card readers because they don’t use a VMS that will accept your brands? This can drastically reduce your selling price. Always look ahead when making this large financial decision for a future exit plan or handoff to a family member. 

  • In the event of a sale, how easy will it be to move your data to the buying company’s system for a seamless integration? 

  • Can your VMS “flip a switch” and move telemetry units from your business to another VMS software for a seamless transition? It should be a system that allows you to grab the on-hand inventories and move them into the new VMS where you can match up the planogram information so you can prekit the same day as the switch over.    

  • Proprietary systems generally will not integrate, so think long-term when making the decision on which provider to use.    

  • Having a quality VMS software will add value to the sale of your business. It lowers the risk for potential buyers if they can see the true sales numbers in a legitimate VMS software.    

Live data 

  • When choosing a system, is the data live after the driver visits to the vending machines, market and OCS location? Having live data is essential in case the driver loses the handheld or tablet.    

  • Is the warehouse inventory live? 

  • Does the VMS use a tablet to fulfil the route stops, or does it use a handheld unit? Ask what happens if a handheld crashes or the battery dies.     

  • Does the routing process require the driver to take a picture of the vending machine after it is servicedto be able to view the machine right after the driver fills it? A picture can tell you many things about a driver’s ability. 

  • Can you “watch” a driver’s progress through the route day to see the sales volume and details in a live view in a web browser or program?    

Warehouse management 

Make sure the VMS has a warehouse management process. Cost of goods sold (COGS) is the largest cost of doing business. Some necessities are in the system you choose should be:    

  • Direct to vendor ordering system 

  • Purchase order (PO) system to create vendor orders and receive using system or scanner    

  • Live inventory system that reflects the inventory as products are moving 

  • The ability to use multiple scanners simultaneously for faster inventory count and receiving products    

  • The ability to have inventory cycle counts – not just full inventory counts    

  • Integration with LightSpeed Automation 

  • Export function to get any data or reporting into a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel    


  • Having your servers and data in the cloud eliminates the need to have local servers and an IT staff to manage it all. Most larger VMS companies have their servers in a secure off-site location.    

  • You will want to check the uptime of their servers. Have they ever gone “down,” which could put your company at risk for financial ruin and data loss? 

  • Ask if their servers are storm proof. With hurricanes and nature storms, will your system be up and running during and after the storm? If your system is based where there is a massive nature storm, will it affect your business?    

  • PCI Compliant – always ask if it’s not known. This is a credit card protection issue and you want to make sure your customers are protected.     

  • If it is not in the cloud, can the servers be moved to a secure data center and away from your business facility?    

  • Having physical servers in your facility poses a potential problem if your facility burns down or other nature disasters occur.    

Tablet or handheld? 

  • In today’s world, you want to make sure that you choose a system that offers a tablet system for the drivers to use. Most will need internet connectivity for true live data.

  • Ask if it must be a specific brand of tablet or if any internet browser device will work    

  • Can you use a smartphone as well? 

  • If it only offers a handheld option, ask if there are any aftermarkets options for a tablet such as Gimme Vending systems.    

Ask around

   When choosing the right VMS software for your business, always get some references so you can hear from fellow operators (that you do not compete with) on how the customer service is and how the system operates. Ask other questions like:    

  • Does it meet their expectations?  

  • Does it do what all the salesperson said it would do? 

  • Would they recommend the provider to others? 

  • What would they like to see improved? 

  • Would they choose that provider again? 

Try to get operators who use the provider on your own if possible. Through networking and meeting fellow operators around the country, ask who they use and grab a business card to contact them. Then you can get better feedback to help you make your decision. This is an expensive decision and the time you take to ensure that you will be happy will pay off for you. You don’t want to pay for a VMS twice by making the wrong decision.