Are you considering moving forward with a vending management system (VMS), but are overwhelmed at the process of moving your operation onboard? It seems like a lot of work, and maybe you don’t have enough time to invest in VMS. After all, you will need to get used to running your operation in a new way. However, there are operational rewards waiting for those who do decide to invest in a VMS.
Are the rewards of a VMS really worth all of this effort? Operational gains like improving route service efficiency by 140%, boosting overall gross sales by 20%, or increasing average machine pull by 15% might have some operators nodding their heads. For a 6 Route operation, this could amount to $32,000 in additional monthly sales, which could be spent on new machines, a refrigerated truck, or a relaxing, family vacation to Maui.
Chris Cosentino of Take a Break Vending, an operation based out of California, believes adopting a VMS was well worth the effort.“We adopted a VMS from Parlevel Systems, and we have seen remarkable financial gains with the software, but not just that” said Cosentino. “The system makes our jobs easier, and it makes the lives of our drivers easier as well. It gives you peace of mind. You want to have happy employees, and the VMS gives us that.”
Just two weeks after adopting the system, Take a Break Vending experienced enormous results: Cosentino has saved 20% on route costs by moving from five routes to four and has decreased inventory ordering costs by $4000 per week. Cosentino shares his experience with adopting a VMS, and how he seamlessly integrated his company into the software, trained to use the software, and achieved powerful results without significantly disrupting his day-to-day operation.
Step 1: Collecting and transferring data
The first step a vending operation needs to take when adopting a VMS is collecting information about their business – everything from machine locations to machine inventory – and sending it to their VMS provider to integrate it within the software.
Take a Break had utilized a different system to manage their operation, so they had some information about their business handy. “Initially we used a different VMS to keep track and manage our company,” said Cosentino. “We inherited the program, and it wasn’t bad, but it was a little confusing. We knew it was out-of-date, and we needed a new software to increase our efficiency.”
At first, Cosentino was nervous about getting his company onto the VMS. “We were concerned we might lose some data,” said Cosentino. “If our operation’s info was wrong at the beginning, we knew we wouldn’t get the full benefit of the software.”
A vending management system relies on accurate information to be effective. If data like product quantities are just a little bit off, the VMS won’t work as intended. For example, if the count of Cheetos in a single machine is inputted as eight bags when there are actually four, the VMS thinks there are four bags of Cheetos left when they are actually sold-out. This inconsistency can lead to missed sales and unhappy customers. According to the Food and News Report,the third time a customer experiences an out-of-stock item, 70% will purchase it from another store. Entering precise data is essential to keeping items in stock and retaining loyal customers.
An operator can avoid these headaches by working with a VMS provider that will double and triple check data to ensure it is correct. “Our information was transferred over without a hitch,” said Cosentino. “Moving our data into the software was virtually error free. Anything that seemed off was caught by the VMS team.”
However collecting all of this information and ensuring it is accurate must be painstakingly time consuming, right? There is barely enough time in the day to run a successful vending operation as it is. To solve this problem, a VMS company should work closely with their customers and come up with a plan and pace that fits into a customer’s schedule while minimally disrupting a company’s day-to-day operations.
Cosentino spoke with his VMS provider, and together they came up with an implementation plan that worked for him. He wanted to get his operation into the system quickly and take advantage of everything the VMS had to offer. Already visiting most machines daily, Cosentino agreed to integrate data collection into his daily routine. He was able to use his service calls as an excuse to count inventory and hook-up hardware. Chris would send this information over to his VMS company who would help him input his information.
“The response time was incredible,” said Cosentino. “We would send the information over, and their team would input all of it into the software the very same day.”
However, the implementation wasn’t immune from hiccups. Take a Break experienced a few issues with integrating third party hardware. “We’re in the process of going 100% cashless, so we had a lot of hardware we had to connect,” said Cosentino. “We weren’t totally aware of how some hardware like DEX cables and EPROMS worked, which would have eased the transition. But when we had issues with hardware and third-party providers, the VMS team gave us the resources that helped us solve the problem right away.”
After 2 weeks of implementation, Take a Break had already put two of their five routes into the system. ”I was pleasantly surprised at how little time and effort it took to get it right, said Cosentino. “New software is certainly a change, so getting the operation online took some extra effort at the end of the day, but nothing drastic.”
Step 2: Training to use the system
After a vending operator gets their company’s information transferred over successfully, they begin training to use the software. The right vending management system can work wonders for many companies, but the technology is only as effective as the person using it. Proper training is necessary to ensure operators can use the software expertly and easily.
“It’s impossible to learn anything new overnight,” said Cosentino. “We sat down with our VMS provider and figured out how training could work best for us. We were able to work at our own pace, which meant we could undergo training without being overwhelmed.”
Not everybody learns in the same way. If a vending operator truly wants to effectively utilize their system, they should be able to access training that works for them. Cosentino had the ability to undergo training through a variety of methods. Whether it was web chat, screen sharing, or phone calls, he could learn in a way that worked for him. “I underwent training primarily through phone calls and web chat,” said Cosentino. It really helped me learn the software well.”
The easier the technology is to use, the easier training should be. Some VMS platforms are not built for vending operators in mind. Overly complicated solutions can be difficult for the end user to effectively use, or they require rigorous training that isn’t always plausible. In a company with many employees, every team member should have enough time to learn the software effectively.
“The platform is easy to use and navigate for our whole company, especially for our drivers,” said Cosentino. “It’s a little time-consuming at first, but it’s not hard. The guys have done everything they can to make it as easy as possible for the end-user.”
Step 3: Putting the VMS into action
Once properly trained, an operator can begin to put the system into effect and experience the benefits of a VMS. Just two weeks after using the Parlevel’s system, Take a Break has streamlined their operation and decreased their routes from 5 to 4 – cutting 20% of their costs in the process. Take a Break’s increased the efficiency of their ordering process and product costs alone have dropped $4000 per week.
By working closely with a VMS provider to collect transfer data, working at their own pace, and undergoing proper training, any vending operation can experience the benefits of a VMS without significantly disrupting their day-to-day operation.
“If you care about what your employees are doing, how your products are performing, and where your money is going, the time and effort to adopt a VMS is well worth it,” said Cosentino. “It may seem challenging at first, but you’ll be thanking yourself in the long run.”
About Take a Break Vending
Take a Break Vending is a full service vending machine service located in Bakersfield, California. Locally owned and with an emphasis on service, Take a Break has experienced rapid growth and more than doubled their operations in the last 10 years. Take a Break partnered with Parlevel Systems in March of 2016 to effectively manage their growth and streamline their operation. More information on Take a Break Vending can be found here.