Kerb-side polling: One of the first things Rob Little and I debated after Vianet acquired Vendman was ‘how do we deliver kerb-side polling to an operator and help them increase efficiency and capacity during a period in which costs are increasing?’ writes Vianet Smart Machines MD, Matt Lane.
It’s been a Holy Grail for some years now: pulling up outside a building, picking up a smartphone and seeing the pick list for the site in real time. Talk about ‘give me a break’! How many more visits could an operator achieve if they didn’t need to get out of the van, walk around the ten (pick your own number) machines on site; then go back to the van, pick and load up the stock and then – finally – set off on a second lap of the site to complete the job?
A year ago, we made putting our customers in that position a priority and now we can do it. In the first half of 2019, we’ll begin rolling out our solution
Kerb-side polling: making service more efficient.
And that’s not all we’ve been doing. By extracting the error codes from machines we can create alerts that go directly to the engineer’s smart phone. Engineers are historically called out to a machine because the customer has reported a fault or some other issue. By giving them access to the cause of the problem, they can ensure that they have the right parts on board before they set off to the call. On arrival, they spend their time focusing on dealing with the issue rather than identifying what the issue is. The outcome includes improved first-time fix rates and quicker on-site resolution. Ultimately this means that machine downtime is reduced, enabling more products to be sold and more revenue to be generated.
Once again, we’ve made this a reality that can be part of your business armoury in the first half of 2019.
Then, we thought: ‘what else is possible from a machine that’s connected in real time? If an operating company has real time data, how can we provide a different solution that allows it to engage with their customers in a more compelling way?
The ERP system that Vendman provides will always be at the heart of any vending business. It runs the operation in terms of stock and labour and reconciles information to provide financial performance data. Because it’s the hub in the middle of the business, no operator is ever going to give his customer access to that level of business intelligence. There’s simply too much confidential information in there.
Most customers still work with the equivalent of an Excel spread sheet, a piece of paper that’s given to them on a weekly or monthly basis. Excuse me? In this day and age we should be doing better than that…
Wouldn’t it be excellent if your customers had a dashboard of their own? They could just log on and see their data real-time? We’re putting the final tweaks to exactly that offer right now; but in fact it’s already on the market place and being used by our customers that rely on telemetry today. The challenge with all new software systems is that you get bugs to start with; at the risk of mixing metaphors, you have to iron out the creases. There are a couple of things remaining that we want to update but – guess when? – during the first half of 2019.
My Vianet customers – mostly, they’re brands and machine manufacturers – have had access to real time data through a similar dashboard for some time. As an operator, you may not want to avail yourself of this innovation, because you already have your real-time data and your ERP. But how about selling it on to your customers as a solution?
If I’m charging you £x per month for every telemetry device you’ve got, to grab your data, store it and process it, could you sell the solution – the dashboard – to your customers as an additional service? So they can see for themselves how the machines are performing. It becomes a different take on the solution that we’re already offering to our customers; but because you’ve got an ERP that sits in the middle of the business, why do you need to change it?
An operator wouldn’t necessarily need both the Vendman and the Vianet dashboard, because the group is now integrating Vianet data into Vendman’s ERP. It’s already happening, because contactless has been available since October 2017, removing manual reconciliation and delivering an automated update. The ‘go live’ button was pushed just after the acquisition. (We had to wait until the deal was done due to confidentiality and PCI). All of the financial reconciliation is done automatically from all of the readers that take data from Vendman customers on our system.
Kerb-side polling: fully Automated, fully reconciled, all the numbers add up.
So, as a business, we’ve probably been a little bit quiet. We didn’t want to start screaming from the rooftops that we could do this, that and the other – all manner of wonderful things – when none of them were completely ready to go. They’re ready to go, in the first half of 2019.
What’s more, the coming 18 months will be a period of intense activity in which we’ll bring a substantial number of new products to market.
Kerb-side polling: a real game changer
If you were to ask Rob and I to pick one of these innovations as a real game changer, then it’d be kerb-side polling. That’s been our No 1 priority. I‘ve been in the industry for long enough and I’ve heard about it so many times over the years, but nobody has ever been able to actually deliver it –actually, it’s not difficult to do when you’ve actually got a telemetry device inside the machine. You just have to poll that device: ‘send me the data, I want it now.’ It becomes all about ‘how quickly can you process it though the systems’.
Planet Vending’s Vianet Archive is HERE