UPDATE! The Vending Integrators are finalists in all three awards… They just need your votes now! Click here to vote.
It was announced today that no fewer than FOUR leading players in the vending industry have submitted combined bids for recognition in THREE Vendies categories. Tagged collectively as The Vending Integrators, Vendman, Parcel Holders, Vianet and Automatic Retailing will contest the Vendies’ ‘Online Initiative of the Year 2017’, ‘Best Ancillary’ and ‘Best New Product’ categories.
Late in 2015, Vendman MD Rob Little announced that 2016 would be ‘The Year of Integration’. ‘That’s exactly what it turned out to be’, Rob told PV today. ‘By the year’s end, thanks to an unprecedented pooling of resources, it was possible for operators to access the services of Vianet, Parcel Holders and Automatic Retailing direct from their Vendman software.
‘The Vending Integrators’ – How The Band Came Together
Parcel Holders and SnackTime got together to make a promotional video, as the spring of 2016 turned into summer. Their objective was simple: to demonstrate exactly how Parcel Holder’s award-winning PUDO solution was enabling Snack Time’s field engineers to deliver an even more efficient service to its customers.
SnackTime’s David Bryant had recently been crowned ‘Service Engineer of the Year’ in The Vendies, so he was the ideal candidate for the role of ‘leading man’ in the production. Cameras would follow him through his working day, beginning ‘over the cornflakes’ in his own home and when he was asked to tell us the first thing he does every day, David immediately said, ‘I log into Vendman.’
The comment was cut from the film’s final edit, but the footage reached Vendman MD Rob Little through an intermediary and it made him think, ‘what if?’
‘I thought if David, like hundreds of other UK vending professionals, is logging into Vendman first thing, every working day’, Rob said, ‘what if he could access Parcel Holders’ services through the same Vendman software that’s such an intrinsic part of his working life? What if David didn’t have to duplicate a lot of effort (and waste a lot of time) because a single log in to Vendman automatically tuned him into Parcel Holders?’
So, when Ed Fraser, Parcel Holders’ MD, got in touch with Rob a day or two later, introduced himself and asked the question, ‘what if?’, he found himself preaching to the converted.
It was June 2016. Soon, the boffins from each company were immersed in the mechanics of making it happen, including the creation of a digital interface known as an API. What Ed didn’t know, was that his ‘Vendman!’ brainwave wasn’t quite an industry first: back in February, Vianet and Vendman had announced their decision to collaborate, for similar reasons.
‘We’re both in the world of connectivity’, Vianet’s Matt Lane said at the time. ‘Vendman connects vending operators to machine data via hand-held devices and Vianet does it by telemetry. It made sense for us to come together and forge a partnership.’
And then, Rob and John Crichton, of multi-award winning wholesaler Automatic Retailing, got talking, too…
The technical challenges that had to be overcome along the way to what Rob calls ‘integration’ and Matt refers to as ‘a brand-new ecosystem for operators’, were tough, as ground-breaking efforts always are. No wonder that, during development, the four members of The Vending Integrators drew ever closer. ‘Best practice’ discovered in any of the integration processes was freely shared with the others, streamlining the project and hastening its conclusion. And now, the show is well and truly on the road and The Vending Integrators have begun to change the way vending works. ‘If you’re one of the vast majority of operating companies that rely on Vendman software everyday, you can now use that familiar platform to order spare parts, (Parcel Holders), to get funds into your accounting system much more quickly, (Vianet) and to re-order the products you need, (Automatic Retailing), Rob said.
Now it’s over to The Vendies’ judges – whoever they may be… It’ll be interesting to see what they, and indeed the organisers, make of this unusual set of entries from the Vending Integrators…
MAIN PICTURE: Mike Hadfield of Automatic Retailing, Ed Fraser of Parcel Holders; Steve Reynolds of Vendman and Vianet’s Matt Lane, together at Vendex Midlands, April 2017.
1: Snack Time and Parcel Holders Video: Feature on Planet Vending is here
2: David Bryant wins the Vendie – story here
3: Parcel Holders / Vendman API explained here
4: Vendman / Vianet integration in detail here
5: Automatic Retailing’s Mike Hadfield on the integration, here.