Press Release

Press Release – Parlevel Systems Launches Calorie Disclosure Tool to Help Operators Comply with Federal Law

San Antonio, TX, July 27, 2016 – Parlevel Systems, the top-to-bottom provider of innovative vending technology tools for vending, micro market, and coffee, water, & other delivery operators around the world, announced the addition of a calorie disclosure tool to its industry recognized vending management solution (VMS).

As required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is establishing requirements for product calorie counts to be displayed on vending machines operated by businesses with more than 20 machines. Parlevel’s calorie disclosure tool helps operators adhere to these standards easily and efficiently.

“One of Parlevel’s primary commitments is to help our customers keep up with changing laws and ease the transition to new ones,” said Rafa Barroso, chief information officer at Parlevel Systems. “These new features will enable operators to adhere to the standard, avoid fines, and service health-conscious customers better than ever.”

Operators can select any machine inside their Parlevel VMS and quickly print out a sheet including product name, weight, and calorie count to display on their machines – all at the click of a button. The printable calorie disclosure sheet adheres to all standards in font, size, and information disclosed – ensuring that operators meet all federal standards without expending considerable time and resources.

“The biggest struggle will be operators finding enough time to actually disclose the calorie content on their machines,” said Chris Graham, President of Graham Snack Foods and President of the Tennessee Automatic Merchandising Association. “Operators have so many products and change them so often that complying with this law would be impossible without a VMS. Parlevel’s calorie disclosure tool helps us follow the regulations while satisfying and attracting stricter accounts like schools and universities.”

Parlevel’s planograms also feature product optimization tools, product performance reports, and up-to-date inventory levels that help operators maximize machine sales and provide an exceptional level of customer service. Parlevel is the first and only vending technology company to offer calorie count disclosure in printed planograms as part of a comprehensive VMS.

Business Management

3 Things to Expect When Adopting a VMS

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.

Route Planning

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.”

Par Level Inventory Efficiency

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.

Take a Break Vending Route GuysCosentino 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.”

Adopting a VMS with Take A BreakNot 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

Take a Break Vending Trucks

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 Logo

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.

Business Management

Vending Infographic – The Benefits of a VMS

Vending Management Systems (VMS) can help vending operators run their businesses more efficiently by giving them increased insight and control over their operations. But just how much can a VMS really help your vending business?

We dove down to get the stats on what you can expect to gain when adopting a VMS. This handy vending infographic shows how helpful tools like prekitting, dynamic routing and product merchandising can help operators get the most out of their operation.

A VMS tracks machine inventory levels remotely, so operators can know what products a machine needs ahead of time. This eliminates the need to manually count machine inventory at a location. As a result, drivers spend less time to service a machine. No more counting inventory manually and no more walking back and forth from machine to truck. This can help operators increase their overall route service efficiency up to 100%.

Operators with a vending management system can also expect to see increased sales. A VMS can inform operators of what products sell well and what products sell poorly. Armed with this knowledge, an operator can offer products their customers enjoy and increase machine sales by 10-15% in the process.

When a machine is selling more product, it accumulates cash more quickly. It also means products are selling out faster. With a VMS, operators can see how much of each product is left, and how much money a machine has collected since its last service. This information lets operators service machines only when products are sold out or cash should be collected. Operators using a VMS can expect to collect almost twice as much money from their machines.

Check out this vending infographic to see how a VMS can help you save time, boost sales, and gain greater control over your vending business.

Check out the vending infographic below:

Vending management system infographic

References

http://parlevelsystems.com/powerful-vending-solutions-that-can-help-you-cut-costs-and-increase-profits

http://parlevelsystems.com/get-the-most-out-of-your-vending-machine-prodcuts-with-product-merchandising

http://parlevelsystems.com/case-study-managing-growth-with-intuitive-vending-technology/

http://parlevelsystems.com/case-study-finding-success-in-healthy-vending

http://parlevelsystems.com/case-study-arkansas-vending-business-uses-parlevel-vms

Press Release

Press Release – Parlevel Reaches Agreements with Midwest Vending Pioneers

San Antonio, TX, May 9, 2016 – Parlevel Systems, the fastest growing provider of vending management solutions (VMS) for vending operators and office coffee service (OCS) providers, has reached partnerships with G&W Vendors of Waukesha, Wisconsin and Avcoa Vending of Chicago, Illinois to deploy its VMS, OCS and remote monitoring solutions.

“Parlevel provides operators with tools that allow them to dramatically increase sales in their already existing customer base,” said Alan Munson, chief commercial officer at Parlevel Systems. “Our system informs an operator of optimal machine service time, product performance levels, and machine optimization recommendations. This knowledge helps operators get the most out of their machines, while providing excellent service to their customers.”

G&W Vendors, a Canteen franchise company, and Avcoa Vending have reported major operational gains after implementing Parlevel’s vending management platform. Both G&W Vendors and Avcoa Vendors have experienced a 10-15% sales increase in most machines connected to Parlevel’s system.

“Parlevel’s tools have helped us significantly increase overall sales in our machines connected to the platform,” said Jeff Peterson, President at G&W Vendors. “In one machine, our weekly sales grew over 70%. We are excited to continue to use the system to make every aspect of our operation more efficient.”

About Parlevel

Based in San Antonio, Parlevel Systems is the fastest growing provider of management solutions for the food and beverage industries, including vending operators and coffee, tea, and water service providers. Founded by successful vending and technology professionals, Parlevel is dedicated to delivering powerful yet easy-to-use technology that provides operators with enhanced control and accountability of their business anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Parlevel utilizes a dedicated customer and technical support team to ensure seamless implementation and a transformative return on investment. For more information on Parlevel, please visit parlevelsystems.com/.

About G&W Vendors

G&W Vendors is a locally owned full line vending company that has been servicing Southeastern Wisconsin since 1933. G&W maintains a reputation for high quality fresh food, top brand-named products and excellent service. As a Canteen franchise, G&W operates thousands of machines in over 10 counties. G&W partnered with Parlevel Systems in December 2015 to help improve their operations. For more information on G&W Vendors, please call 877-506-8213.

About Avcoa Vending

Opening its doors for business in 1965, Avcoa Vending is a family owned vending, micro market, and office coffee service business serving the Chicago area. Avcoa is based on the principle of providing a good quality product at a good value with outstanding service. Their commitment to their customers has helped Avcoa become a vending mainstay in the Chicago area.  Avcoa partnered with Parlevel Systems in December 2015 to help them manage their company more efficiently. For more information on Avcoa Vending, please call 312-226-1700.

Press Release

Press Release – Parlevel Adds to Growing Suite of Vending Technology Products with Launch of Cashless Payment Platform

San Antonio, TX, May 9, 2016 – Parlevel Systems, the fastest growing provider of vending management solutions (VMS) for vending operators and office coffee service providers, announced the launch of their cashless payment platform, Parlevel Pay. Parlevel Pay enables vending operators to accept a variety of payment options to help drive sales and better satisfy customers.

Parlevel Pay accepts credit cards, debit cards, campus & loyalty cards, customer wallets, and mobile payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay at vending machines and micro markets. The ability to offer customers multiple payment options helps operators drive larger and more frequent purchases, capture the growing number of potential customers that rarely carry cash, and increase overall sales.

Backed by Parlevel Systems powerful vending management system, Parlevel Pay gives operators access to detailed analytics on their cashless payments. Operators can drill down into the effect cashless has on their business and make informed operational decisions to get the most out of their cashless readers.

“As the workforce in America gets younger, it is apparent to vending operators that they need to allow many different types of payments in order to satisfy evolving customer needs,” said Alan Munson, chief commercial officer at Parlevel Systems. “Our cashless solution is backed by Parlevel’s advanced vending management software that helps operators monitor what products their customers are purchasing, and how they are paying for them. These advanced analytics coupled with the ability to accept contemporary forms of payment help vending operators drive profits and better serve their customers.”

Purchases made with Parlevel Pay are deposited daily into an operator’s account which gives operators quick access to their money. Parlevel Pay utilizes secure gateways and daily processing that ensure cashless transactions are safe and reliable. The easy-to-use reporting system lets operators access transaction history, financial statements, deposit history, and more at the touch of a button.

For more information on Parlevel Pay, please visit: http://parlevelsystems.com/parlevel-pay/

About Parlevel

Based in San Antonio, Parlevel Systems is the fastest growing provider of management solutions for the food and beverage industries, including vending operators and coffee, tea, and water service providers. Founded by successful vending and technology professionals, Parlevel is dedicated to delivering powerful yet easy-to-use technology that provides operators with enhanced control and accountability of their business anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Parlevel utilizes a dedicated customer and technical support team to ensure seamless implementation and a transformative return on investment.

Press Release

Press Release – Parlevel Announces Availability of Flexible Financing Option

San Antonio, TX, May 2, 2016 – Parlevel Systems, the fastest growing provider of vending management solutions (VMS) for vending operators and office coffee service providers, announced the availability of their flexible financing solution, Parlevel Capital. Parlevel Capital is a financing program that helps vending operators invest in equipment and technology to grow their operations without heavy initial costs.

Parlevel Capital helps operators avoid hefty upfront investments by offering equipment with no money down and at an affordable flat monthly rate. Operators can start using Parlevel Capital in three easy steps: fill out a one page credit application form, choose a payment structure, and receive equipment. Parlevel Capital is the only financing solution that lets operator’s access credit for telemeters, cashless devices, phones, tablets, micro market kiosks, coolers, OCS equipment, and more.

“The close interactions we have with our customers show us how vital it is for a vending business to have cash available,” said Luis Gonzalez, chief executive officer at Parlevel Systems. “Big, upfront payments can make it very difficult for operators to invest in new technology, win accounts, and grow their operations. Our success depends on the success of our customers and we want vending operators to grow, thrive, and provide a great service to their customers. Parlevel Capital will help operators build great vending operations without breaking the bank.”

To learn more about Parlevel Capital, please visit: http://parlevelsystems.com/capital/

About Parlevel

Based in San Antonio, Parlevel Systems is the fastest growing provider of management solutions for the food and beverage industries, including vending operators and coffee, tea, and water service providers. Founded by successful vending and technology professionals, Parlevel is dedicated to delivering powerful yet easy-to-use technology that provides operators with enhanced control and accountability of their business anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Parlevel utilizes a dedicated customer and technical support team to ensure seamless implementation and a transformative return on investment.

Micro Markets, Press Release

Press Release – Parlevel Announces Launch of Total Micro Market Solution

San Antonio, TX, April X, 2016 – Parlevel Systems, the fastest growing provider of vending management solutions (VMS) for vending operators and office coffee service providers, announced the launch of their complete micro market solution. Parlevel’s micro market is the only true top to bottom hardware and software solution in the industry which provides operators with all of the necessary tools to successfully implement and manage a micro market operation.

A Kiosk that Customers Will Love  

Parlevel has engineered and designed a sleek, touchscreen kiosk that helps operators attract customers with an intuitive and an easy-to-use design. The kiosk lets users pay with credit, debit, pre-paid, and campus cards, mobile payments like Apple Pay and Android Pay, or cash which helps operators maximize sales.

“We are thrilled to offer operators a kiosk with state-of-the-art engineering design, strong customer engagement, and powerful operational capabilities,” said Luis Gonzalez, chief executive officer at Parlevel Systems. “Parlevel’s management systems cover more than a micro market’s operational needs. Our offerings also help operators understand their customers purchasing behaviors and product preferences – allowing them to deliver a first-class experience for the end user.”

The kiosk gives customers an express checkout experience where they simply scan, swipe, and go. Users can create a pre-loaded wallet and sign in with a barcode scan, login code, work badge, or their fingerprint to pay quickly and easily. Parlevel’s micro market allows operators to run personalized messages and promotions, collect feedback, hear customer concerns, provide exceptional support, and more.

Smart Software and a Secure Solution

Parlevel’s kiosk is built with Parlevel’s robust  management system that provides operators with the smartest micro market solution in the industry. Backed by Parlevel’s comprehensive analytics module, micro market reports can be run easily and with an unprecedented depth. Data on sales, customer habits, payment information, product performance, and more empowers operators to make better business decisions.

Operators substantially benefit from Parlevel’s remote access features which enable them to change prices, create promotional campaigns, access inventory levels, and even troubleshoot from any device, at any location, and at any time.

Parlevel’s micro markets use enhanced security technologies to protect operators from theft. Utilizing a customer-facing HD webcam and extensive surveillance cameras, every angle of a micro market is covered. Video and audio footage is stored in the cloud for up to 30 days, so operators won’t miss a thing. Stored footage and real-time video can be accessed 24/7 via mobile, desktop, or Parlevel’s VMS to give operators easy access to security footage day or night.

Total Integration with Vending and OCS

Parlevel’s micro market solution allows for full integration into Parlevel’s VMS and does not require operators to pay additional fees to manage micro markets, vending, and office coffee service operations all under one cohesive system. A route driver can service micro markets, OCS, and vending locations all in one route, which simplifies and streamlines the routing process. Robust features like product merchandising, inventory optimization, warehouse ordering, and pre-kitting are used across micro markets, OCS, and vending accounts, which helps operators achieve maximum efficiency for every aspect of their operation – all without the need to purchase add-ons or additional software.

Responsive Customer Support

Parlevel’s micro markets are backed by industry-best customer support. Parlevel’s customer support team helps operators integrate and manage their micro markets easily and effectively. Available any time via chat, email, and phone, operators can get the support they expect whenever and however they need it.

With flexible financing options available, operators can expand their micro market base without up-front equipment investments.

For more information on Parlevel’s micro markets, please visit: www.parlevelsystems.com/micro-market-3

 

About Parlevel

Based in San Antonio, Parlevel Systems is the fastest growing provider of management solutions for the food and beverage industries, including vending operators and coffee, tea, and water service providers. Founded by successful vending and technology professionals, Parlevel is dedicated to delivering powerful yet easy-to-use technology that provides operators with enhanced control and accountability of their business anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Parlevel utilizes a dedicated customer and technical support team to ensure seamless implementation and a transformative return on investment.

 

Industry, Technology

Don’t Miss Parlevel at NAMA 2016.

Parlevel NAMA OneShowParlevel has been working hard to help operators manage their operations more easily and efficiently than ever, and we are excited to show you everything we have to offer. We will be debuting several exciting products at this year’s NAMA OneShow, so make sure you don’t miss out! Visit Parlevel at Booth #2000 April 13-15, 2016 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois to see the newest additions to the Parlevel family, try out our vending software, and explore how we can help your business prosper.

Make sure to stop by these special events at NAMA featuring Parlevel to learn how to successful approach implementing technology into your business.

Parlevel NAMA Schedule of Events

Weds, April 13th

8:30 am – 9:30 am: Roadmap to Technology: Starting Out, Speeding Up, and Scalable Solutions

Are you an independent operator with a small to medium number of routes looking to invest in technology to help manage and/or operate your business? Have you been put off by the apparent overwhelming burden of creating an initial business database and product catalog? Which applications make most sense and which should be postponed or avoided? Come hear how others got started, what they determined were feasible and logical first steps, and why they did or did not implement specific applications.

Learn how operators were successful by electing what to do and when to do it. This session is for both newbie and experienced operators interested in designing a technology roadmap to guide their decision making. Lower your anxiety and let the experience of others be your guide.

9:45 am – 11:15 am: Small Operator Roundtable

If you are a vending operator managing no more than 4 routes and fewer than 10 employees, the challenges of running your operation are unique to a small business owner. Technology, Micro Markets, expansion, pre-kitting and general operations are just some of the management questions you consider as you build your company. Come to a round table session that is tailor-made for you!

Connect with your peers and join fellow small operators for open conversation on topics that are chosen by you! This session will be moderated by Chip Potter, NAMA’s Vice President of Information Services.

Thurs, April 14

Friday, April 15

9:00 am – 1:00 pm: Visit us at Booth #2000

 

We look forward to seeing you at the NAMA OneShow!

Press Release

Press Release – Parlevel to Showcase Vending Management Solution & Debut New Products at the 2016 NAMA OneShow

San Antonio, TX, March 23, 2016 –  Parlevel Systems (www.parlevelsystems.com), the fastest growing provider of vending management solutions (VMS) for vending operators and office coffee service providers, will showcase its suite of vending management tools and debut new products during the NAMA OneShow at booth #2000 from April 13-15.

Parlevel will be exhibiting powerful tools that help operators spend less, sell more, and streamline their operations. The company will unveil an array of new products that will enable vending businesses to easily utilize state-of–the-art technology in their operations. These new products will seamlessly integrate with Parlevel’s innovative VMS.

“No other technology provider in the industry communicates with their customers as often as Parlevel,” said Luis Gonzalez, chief executive officer of Parlevel Systems. “Our industry-best customer support approach allows us to identify the unique challenges and opportunities vending operators face every day. We have examined these insights and created some of the most robust tools in the food and beverage industry. We are very excited to unveil all the progress we have made since the last NAMA OneShow and to show operators how we can help them streamline their operations in newer and smarter ways.”

The NAMA OneShow is the premier trade show for the $25 billion vending, coffee service, and food-service management industries. Operators from across the country will be able to visit the booths of suppliers, explore cutting-edge technology, and attend educational seminars that will help them grow their businesses.

About Parlevel

Based in San Antonio, Parlevel Systems is the fastest growing provider of management solutions for the food and beverage industries, including vending operators and coffee, tea, and water service providers. Founded by successful vending and technology professionals, Parlevel is dedicated to delivering powerful yet easy-to-use technology that provides operators with enhanced control and accountability of their business anywhere, anytime, and from any device. Parlevel utilizes a dedicated customer and technical support team to ensure seamless implementation and a transformative return on investment. For additional information, please visit: www.parlevelsystems.com.

Business Management

10 Must-Ask Questions to Raise when Choosing a VMS

Vending management systems (VMS) can help vending operators increase the efficiency of their operations through the fusion of technology into their businesses. According to a case study conducted by Parlevel on vending operations in Arkansas and Texas, operations have shown a 140% increase in route efficiency and a 30% reduction in operating expenses after adopting a VMS. There are many VMS providers out there that promise to help vending operators run their business better, but not all of these companies are created equal. There are positives and negatives to each system, so it is important to find VMS that fits your business .

With the NAMA OneShow in Chicago right around the corner, it is important to be prepared to ask the right questions when shopping for a vending management system. Shundra Johnson, co-owner of Sunshine’s Vending – a family-owned vending operation based out of Los Angeles – attended the 2015 NAMA convention in Las Vegas with one goal in mind: find a vending software solution that could help her effectively manage her business.

Johnson found a VMS to help manage her company, and it was initially successful. However as her company grew, Johnson began to have issues with her software. Eventually, it became too much to handle, and Johnson had to start all over again.

Here are 10 questions Johnson wished she had asked the first time she shopped for a VMS:

1. Is the VMS user-friendly?

Vending Management Systems include many robust features, but not all are easy to use. The underlying code of vending technology is built by computer engineers and software developers with extreme tech-savvy. Issues can arise when developers create systems that are too complicated for the end-user. These high tech systems sometimes require an operator or a route driver to undergo significant training to fully utilize their features skillfully and easily.

On the other hand, some vending software services are very easy-to-use and user friendly, but may be overly simplistic and provide only basic features. These unsophisticated systems might not give an operator enough control over their operation and often struggle at managing growth. A system should find the sweet spot between ease-of use and powerful functionality.

“We initially ran our business with Microsoft Office tools,” said Johnson. “As our operation grew, it became too much to manage with this basic software.” Johnson attended NAMA in search for a VMS to help her manage her business. She visited many different vending technology booths and after weighing her options, she decided she needed a system that was the easiest for her to learn.

“We chose a system that was extremely user friendly,” said Johnson. “I was the only one in my company that was really computer literate. We thought it may be too difficult for the other owners to understand the software.” As her company expanded, she quickly outgrew her VMS and needed more features to manage her operation effectively.

After Johnson picked the easiest system, it was only six months before she realized she had made a mistake. Johnson needed a system that wasn’t just user-friendly, but also powerful. “Lucky for us, we realized our mistake early enough to make a change and transition to a different system,” said Johnson.

2. Is the system cloud-based or server-based?

Vending management systems come in two forms: server-based and cloud-based. Server-based systems store data locally on a program or a device. Operators often have to download special computer programs to make a device compatible with a server. Additionally, a device has to be physically connected to a server in order to access the data stored within. The server’s resources  are wholly owned by a vending operator and aren’t shared with other companies, so they are beneficial to companies that use huge amounts of data. For example, credit card companies with huge amounts of customer information use servers to store their massive pools of data.

Cloud-based systems are a little different. They back up data on many servers through the internet and can be accessed from virtually anywhere. Dropbox and Google Drive are good example of cloud-based systems. Since your data exists on many different servers, these systems are virtually limitless and rarely need to be upgraded or expanded. According to Rackspace, cloud serversare a great option for businesses that need to optimise IT performance without the huge costs associated with (server-based systems),” which makes them popular with small and mid-sized businesses.

Server-based systems are more difficult and more expensive to upgrade than their cloud-based counterparts. When expanding data capacity in the cloud, one simply pays more monthly to access more cloud space. With a server, IT experts must physically upgrade and add hard drives to expand their data.

Furthermore, loss of data is a concern in server-based systems. Many of these systems aren’t backed up in many locations. If the server and its backup location malfunctions, all of the data is completely lost. This failure could prove catastrophic for a vending operation that relies on past data to run their business.

Since cloud systems utilize many servers, there is never a risk to completely lose data. One backup location can be compromised, but many backups still remain. Vending operators who choose a cloud-based systems can rest easy knowing their data won’t be erased. If an operation is looking for an affordable, secure, and scalable system, cloud-based systems are the best option.

3.What devices can I use with the VMS?

Vending management systems utilize many different technologies to help operators manage their businesses. Over the years, handhelds have been one of the most common devices used to log data into a VMS. These handhelds let employees scan products and record inventory levels while out in the field. This data can then be physically downloaded to a computer when an employee returns to the warehouse.

Recently, vending technology has evolved and newer devices have emerged. Now, many systems are cloud-based, which means any device with an internet connection is compatible. iPod Touches, iPhones, Samsung tablets, and Android phones can all be used with these systems.

While handhelds and newer devices both grant mobile access to a VMS, they do so in different ways. Smartphones and tablets can remotely deliver data to a management system through the cloud, while information stored on handhelds can not be accessed until a driver downloads the data at the end of his route. Furthermore, handhelds and scanners tend to be bulky and expensive. Handhelds from Motorola, for example, can cost anywhere from $1600-$2000 and can cost up to $400 on repairs alone.

Vending software that is compatible with mobile devices can save operators money, since they can choose from a variety of  different devices. A Samsung Galaxy 4, for example, can be found for just over $100. Furthermore, some employees might already have personal smartphones that are compatible with a VMS, which lets an operator avoid buying devices completely. Or, they can provide a monthly stipend to their employees to account for cellular data usage.

Johnson’s new system is cloud-based, which means she can use virtually any device. “We use cell phones, laptops, and tablets to access our vending software,” said Johnson. “Not only can we manage our operation from virtually anywhere and on any device, we saved time on training our employees, since they were already familiar with working on these devices.”

4. How often often do vending management systems “check in” with my machines?

Vending management software utilizes remote monitoring through telemetry hardware to alert operators to machine information like breakdowns, bill jams, coin jams, inventory levels, money to be collected, and more. Remote monitoring lets operators track machine status without the need to physically visit the machine.

VMS companies track machine information through DEX or MDB data. Systems that utilize DEX data will “check in” with a machine at pre-set times. MDB data doesn’t “check in” like DEX, but instead sends machine information with every transaction. With MDB, a machine that experiences zero sales is indistinguishable from a machine that is broken down, since neither situation triggers MDB data to be sent to a management system. As a result, DEX data will relay more machine breakdown data like compressor issues or if a machine door was opened when it was not planned for service.

Going a step further, different hardware companies offer different “check in” frequencies with DEX data. For example, one company can offer DEX communications twice a day, while another can offer it 4 times a day. The more DEX communications per day, the better off an operator is. Frequent system “check ins” help an operator spot critical machine malfunctions more quickly.

When Johnson made the move to a different VMS, she made sure her machines communicated with the system very frequently. “We wanted as much machine communication as possible, so we could know ahead of time if there was a problem with a machine,” said Johnson. “This would enable us to go service the machine as soon as there was an issue, and we could keep accounts happy and avoid missing out on sales.”

5. Will the VMS work with different aspects of my business?

As the vending industry continues to grow, many vending operators are involved in more than just vending. In particular, micro-markets and Office Coffee Services (OCS) are a growing part of the vending industry. According to a study done by Coca-Cola, there are projected to be over 35,000 micro-markets by 2020.Top 10 Q's

Vending software is often built to work only with traditional vending businesses. For operations that strictly pursue vending, these systems work just fine. Other vending management platforms can additionally manage OCS or micro-markets, but may require the purchase of  additional software or add-ons. In addition, some platforms exclusively manage only OCS or micro-markets.

It is imperative that a vending operator chooses a system that will help them manage many different aspects of their business. Instead of using one company for vending, one for coffee, another for micro-markets, and yet another for telemetry, an operator can streamline their operations by choosing one company that can handle it all.

“We can effectively manage our different business operations with the same company,” said Johnson. “We’re aware of the profitability of micro-markets and OCS, and we have the option to implement them with vending under the same software if we wanted to.”

6. Will a VMS provider work with a company my size?

Vending operations come in all sizes, however, there are significantly fewer smaller operators today than 20 years ago. According to Vending Market Watch, 81.3% of operations could be considered small in 1995. In 2015, small operations only comprise 51% of the industry.

Large companies benefit greatly from vending management systems. These bigger businesses tend to have more routes, higher transportation costs, increased inventory costs, and a larger overall overhead than their smaller counterparts. A VMS can reduce these costs by streamlining operations, which can help larger operations significantly increase their bottom line. One large operator based out of Houston experienced a substantial 25% reduction in operating expenses after adopting vending software.

Vending management systems don’t only help large operations. In fact, these systems can work wonders for smaller companies as well. Vending Market Watch reports that the “dollar percentage of sales has gotten better for all size operators with the exception of extra-large.” Vending Market Watch theorizes that “vending management systems and telemetry are playing a role here.”

Still, some vending software companies won’t pay attention to vending operations that they deem “too small,” while other providers simply aren’t equipped to handle an operation that is “too big.”

“The system we used initially was not prepared to handle our business as we grew,” said Johnson. “We were not a huge company, but we still needed software that would handle our growth.”

Johnson looked for a VMS that could manage their operation far into the future. “We needed software that could both handle the size of our operation and allow us to grow if we wanted to,” said Johnson.

7. Do they offer a mobile app?

As previously mentioned, cloud-based systems can be accessed from virtually any device through the web browser. However, not all vending software systems are easily viewable on the smaller displays of smartphones and tablets. Data and information can be squeezed and compressed until it is too difficult to use on smaller devices. Operators out in the field might not be able to accurately see necessary information, which can prove problematic.

Vending technology providers can solve this problem by providing mobile apps that optimize their software for smaller screens. Mobile apps are made with smaller devices in mind, so they can help operators that want to use the system out in the field.

“Vending is an on-the-go operation,” said Johnson. “Technicians in the field need to be able access their information easily while on their routes. A tool like this is truly indispensable for our route drivers.”

8. How will I transition into the system?

Once we get into a habit, it can be hard to break, and getting into a new routine can be even more difficult. Research shows that, on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic. For most operators, running their business has become routine, and implementing a vending management system is a big change; machines need to be integrated into the system, inventory has to be accounted for, and employees need to be trained to use the system effectively. Vending technology companies have a responsibility to make the habit forming transition as easy as possible for operators.

Instead of trying to fit an operator into their system, VMS providers should fit their system to an operator. For example, if there is an aspect of a vending business that isn’t supported by the system, a company should work to integrate it.

“Our drivers only service machines and don’t collect money from them,” said Johnson. “This method wasn’t compatible with our first provider. With our new system, we got with their technical team and told them of how we ran our business. Within months, they made a feature that let us define our routes exactly how we wanted them solely because of our recommendation.”

9. How will I learn to effectively use the system?

No matter how technologically capable or advanced, a system is only as effective as the person using it. If an operator wants to truly get the most out of their system, they need to learn how to use it, and there’s no better source than the company providing the VMS.

Vending technology companies may provide manuals or training videos to help operators learn the technology. However, not everyone learns in the same way. “We had little to no training with our first system,” said Johnson.

Operators should be taught how to use the system through a platform that works best for them. Whether through phone calls, web chat, emails, or video calls, users need different options to learn the software effectively, expertly, and easily.

“With our new system, I went through training so I could better use the software,” said Johnson. “I could choose whichever method worked best for me, so we did it over the phone and online. The staff was so willing to help. It didn’t matter how often I had questions, they always made sure I was readily equipped to use the software.”

10. Do I have access to customer support if I need it?

Once an operator is trained to use the software, access to customer support is integral for success. Many VMS companies are constantly adding new features or functionality, and an operator needs to stay on top of these changes.

Unfortunately, not all companies provide adequate customer support. They either halt the support after a certain period of time, or charge operators a fee to access these services. “It was too hard to reach customer service with our first company,” said Johnson. “They had very limited hours, and we couldn’t get in contact with their representatives.”

After her negative experience, Johnson made sure comprehensive customer support was on the top of her list.

“Our new system’s support team always answers our phone calls,” said Johnson. “If we get stuck, they always answer our questions right away. I’ve been up at 3 o’clock in the morning my time, and I still get a response. I’ve done it on New Years Eve, and I was getting responses right away. That is huge being able to have customer service because no system is going to be perfect. There are going to be kinks. This is technology, and things are going to happen. We expect that. But it’s amazing that we have a 24 hour window to speak with somebody at any given time about anything and 99 times out of 100 you get results right away and 100% of the time it gets resolved. So we are very very pleased with our current VMS. Very very pleased.

About Sunshine’s Vending:

Sunshine’s Vending is a family-owned vending operation that has been servicing the Los Angeles area for over seven years. Reliability and an enduring focus on customer service have helped Sunshine’s stand out from its competitors. Sunshine’s began using Parlevel Systems in 2015 to help them manage their company expertly and effectively. For more information on Sunshine’s Vending, please call 310-422-8029.