Inventory control management solutions for vending, micro market and OCS operators

March 19, 2024
Technology solutions can help manage inventory – a vital piece of business for any vending, OCS or micro market operation.

Why is inventory management important? Staci Thornton Ryan – a second-generation operator, industry consultant and founder of Convenience Brigade – said it can be summed up in one word, consolidation. “Gone are the days that it is necessary to log into multiple VMS platforms.”

Convenience Brigade assists operators with setting up Cantaloupe’s technology solutions: Seed Delivery, Seed Market and Seed Warehouse. “Getting these off the ground can be an uphill task for operators. Many operators simply don’t have the time it takes to get these new systems fully functional,” Ryan said. “We offer an A-Z plan for implementation. This allows us to do the heavy lifting, while the operator functions in supporting and guidance roles.”

Cantaloupe makes it possible for all lines of business to operate in a centralized location. Seed Delivery, Seed Market and Seed Warehouse combine with Seed Office to produce a one-stop shop for inventory management. Seed Delivery handles OCS and pantry orders and invoicing. Seed Market brings in all the various market VMS systems together in the Seed database. There is also the traditional vending VMS in Seed. These work together with Seed Warehouse to track what’s going out of the warehouse as well as what’s coming in – all in real time.

Ryan said that Seed Warehouse can sometimes be an underutilized tool. It tracks inventory and can even create orders. Taking weekly and monthly inventories is easy, and once the initial setup is complete, maintaining Seed Warehouse is also simple.

“With supply chain issues improving, but not completely back to normal, it’s a tremendous asset for operators to be able to reliably see what’s on hand in the warehouse with a few simple clicks in Seed,” Ryan said. “Knowing how much to order so you don’t run out of product or overstock your warehouse is critical to minimizing problems in the field and a company’s cash flow. Smart software like the warehouse functionality in Cantaloupe can help to make that the norm.”

She also explained that it is important to stay on top of costs as soon as they increase to help maintain margins in your operation. “Tired of monthly or quarterly updating your unit costs for 1,000+ items? Utilizing the purchase and receive functionality in Cantaloupe will update unit costs automatically every time you receive/purchase product. Cantaloupe uses a unique method of calculating unit cost that mirrors FIFO costing accurately,” Ryan said.

The Cantaloupe platform also manages pre-pick calculating and interfaces seamlessly with an operator’s pick platform. It manages the flow of products leaving and coming back to the warehouse for daily operations. Ryan said, “Properly implemented, this is a game-changer. With the adoption of pre-picking for routes, the need to monitor route truck inventory variances has virtually become obsolete.”

Customizing solutions

Nayax, a global commerce enablement, payments and loyalty platform, also offers inventory management solutions – allowing operators to run their day-to-day operations in real time. Pete Carmain, vice president of national accounts, said, “Anything in ‘real time’ is efficient, and that is the goal of any VMS. We believe in inventory management as a baseline for any management system. So much so that we have it built into our backend system, Nayax Core, as well as our enterprise VMS solution, VendSys.”

Nayax works with helping operators grow their businesses efficiently, and one of the first questions they ask is, how do you control inventory? “That question alone will guide us in customizing a solution for that operator,” Carmain explained. “Inventory management is both macro and micro. It allows operators to drill down to the individual item or all items’ categories. That’s a powerful tool when you think of knowing exactly what products are selling, not selling, and when/where to order more, so there are no gaps in service.”

Solving inventory control

Another solutions provider, Atlanta-based Gimme, can help solve inventory control in several specific ways. The first is with pictures, explained co-founder and CEO Evan Jarecki. “Merchandisers are required to take pictures at every micro market and vending service. It only takes a few seconds to capture the images, and the accountability gains are huge. Supervisors and managers can review these images to ensure stockouts are filled, planogram compliance and product organization.”

And the second way is product history log. “Most operators want to follow the life cycle of a product, or product ‘flow,’ from the time it hits their warehouse to the time it sells to a consumer,” Jarecki said. “With Gimme, warehouse managers can view their upcoming orders, on-hand stock levels, pick orders and ultimately confirm these pick orders were delivered to the micro market, vending machine or office coffee/pantry location.”

The third solution is what Gimme calls “better-than-dynamic” scheduling – a manual daily scheduling tool that allows the operator to add/remove stops from a route schedule based on key metrics. Some of those include current fill percentage, number of stockouts, estimated sales and the estimated pick order. “The user gets a quick glimpse at current inventory levels and the upcoming pick order and can make an informed decision on whether or not to keep or remove this stop from the schedule,” Jarecki said. “This is a tool primarily used to cut down on labor and increase cash collects; however, it can also help avoid picking product unnecessarily for stops that can wait a few more days to be restocked.”

Streamlining operations

365 Retail Markets also offers a VMS solution to streamline operations, cut down on waste and better monitor inventory. The VMS helps operators leverage tools for warehouse management, product spoilage and routing. Inventory costs can be cut by ordering precise amounts of product and tracking every product as it moves from warehouse, to truck, to machine.

365’s LightSpeed warehouse solutions, including its pick-to-light system, provide tools for operators to run an efficient operation, reduce labor costs and reduce mis-pick. LightSpeed Level is a software solution that can also help operators boost warehouse efficiency. Level helps consolidate information from around the warehouse to understand and optimize warehouse inventory and purchasing needs. With optimized inventory, operators can see on-hand product quantities at any time. It also uses sales data and current inventory levels to suggest optimal purchasing.



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