When vending machines are not working, their owners are losing money and this, in turn, affects the manufacturer’s sales. For the business model to be successful, vending machines must be restocked before they are emptied of goods and any faults must be rectified swiftly.
Vending machines, by their very nature, are often installed in vulnerable locations where there are no staff nearby to look after them. This means that there are a number of safety and security issues that owners must guard against. Currently, vending machine owners have to rely on security guards. However, in the new ‘connected’ world, vending machine suppliers can offer their customers more efficient and effective security with a connection to Pacific Controls managed services so that the machine is monitored remotely.
Most modern vending machines are designed to inhibit theft, with security measures resulting in machines similar in strength to safes. There have been cases of people being fatally injured after having a vending machine topple over onto them, either while they were attempting to steal from the machine, or venting frustration over a malfunction.
Fraud is another problem, particularly with mechanical vending machines that use coins. Fraudsters may succeed in substituting foreign currency, or, in more extreme cases, worthless tokens or washers (commonly referred to as slugs), which have the same size and shape as the coin accepted by the machine. Not only does this allow the fraudster to pay less for the merchandise, with machines that give change they may succeed in obtaining coins of more value than the object they inserted.
Manufacturers of vending machines can use the Pacific Controls managed services to create smart vending machines that can accept credit and debit cards, reducing the need for coins, and to offer their customers a remote, real-time 24x7 monitoring service to keep their machines earning money at all times.
A small M2M device is placed in the vending machine where it connects the non-IP devices and equipment to the IP network infrastructure via GPRS. This connects to a rich application server on the Galaxy platform with an efficient web-enabled user interface specifically designed to perform functions such as: remote control, alarm handling, processing of business rules and data logging, and to provide data services to other applications and systems.
This will keep the owners informed about how much money the machines are taking and allow them to compare revenues for different machines and different locations with the click of a mouse, so that they can quickly find out which machines and which contents are most profitable and reposition machines, or change their contents, so as to maximise revenues. Using Pacific Controls M2M managed services equips vending machines to ‘find’ and ‘talk’ to the nearest replenishing depot or vehicle, so that machines are refilled before popular products run out, which helps to boost customer satisfaction and company revenue for both low and high-value goods. M2M technology enables a device to advise the service center if there is a fault.
Suppliers can alert machine owners about problems such as vandalism and automatically send the maintenance team within a time period specified in an SLA. The can offer VMI services that are automated so that the supplier receives information on turnover and alerts when stocks are running low. The vendor can then refill the machine automatically, without the customer initiating purchase orders.
Vending companies selling food items need to monitor turnover carefully so that the contents do not spoil in the machine. Product sell-by dates can be monitored automatically by the Galaxy cloud platform, making it feasible to sell more fresh and healthy food and other time-limited products through vending machines.
Pacific Controls GCCC plays an important role in the end-to-end delivery of smart vending machine applications, for both the owner and the machine provider. To the owner, Pacific Controls is able to offer applications using multimodal interactive interfaces (TV, PC, mobile phone, etc.), to provide revenue and inventory details, such as per appliance real time power consumption, temperature monitoring and other parameters.
Regular maintenance is key to a successful vending business. Many vending machine operators rush to try and fix the machine when they get an emergency call. Preventive maintenance services from the vendor, coordinated by Pacific Controls Managed Services for Critical Assets Monitoring, will reduce down time and eliminate emergency calls. This will both increase revenue for the owner and save money on repair services, increasing bottom line profit.
Pacific Controls advanced dynamic FDD software monitors all of a company’s vending machines, detecting any problems and sending out alerts. It will monitor performance trends and predict faults which may be likely to occur in the future. It also provides a list of the actions that can be taken to resolve a problem. By using Pacific Controls Gbots to diagnose the fault remotely, and also to fix it if it is a software problem, the machine is kept operating at all times. If the Gbots cannot repair the problem, technicians can be given the details of the fault to ensure that they are equipped to respond quickly and effectively using the correct tools and parts.
Vehicle Tracking features (described in section 6), which monitor vehicles in real-time using GPS and provide detailed analysis of vehicle data from the central platform, help vending machine suppliers manage their fleets more effectively and minimise the cost of repairing and replenishing the machines.
Vending machine suppliers develop a closer ongoing relationship with machine owners. They can offer services that increase profitability, including smart VMI and predictive maintenance, by ensuring that they maximise the percentage of time that machines are taking money. Increased machine revenues mean more repeat business.
The cost of offering maintenance contracts is reduced by making use of remote troubleshooting and repair by Gbots, predictive and root cause fault analysis, and by improving management and performance of vehicles and maintenance staff. Vendors have access to real-time information about how their machines are being used and logs of historical data and events, which can be utilised to improve the R&D of future products.
Vending machine owners get machines that are earning more money for a larger percentage of the time. They are able to sell more perishable products by automatically having appropriate stock levels and can reduce obsolescence and dead inventory. Machines can take cards instead of cash, appealing to more customers and making theft less of a problem.