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Vagabond Vending and Woolpert Optimize Vending Machine Industry with Automated Stocking and Routing Application

vagabond_bodyimgChallenge

Vending machines are the ultimate “just-in-time” product delivery method. When hunger strikes, vending machines come to the rescue with an assortment of convenient food options. However, keeping those machines well-stocked—and thus profitable—is a very labor-intensive effort. Since the introduction of vending machines to the food service industry, operators have relied on manual inspections of machines to monitor product inventories and maintenance needs. Drivers follow established schedules and routes, restocking machines and performing repairs as needed. Without current inventory information, drivers face the unknown—be it supply shortages or unnecessary stocking trips—every time they run their routes. Machine maintenance is often delayed because problems are only detected during scheduled visits, and sales can stagnate when fast-selling products aren’t restocked quickly enough. Every day, the inefficiency of operating without accurate, up-to-date inventory data costs operators significant time and money.

Solution

Enter Vagabond Vending, a Washington, D.C.-based vending firm focused on optimizing the vending machine industry, and Woolpert, a Dayton, Ohio-based Google Maps partner. Vagabond and Woolpert teamed to develop applications for making the vending machine business “smart.” Vagabond’s application suite has replaced in-person inventories on paper forms with automated product counts communicated directly to warehouse staff and route drivers. Access to this sales data empowers operators to customize product selections, maximize sales and eliminate unnecessary transportation expenses. The Woolpert team helped Vagabond to further increase smart vending machine IQ by integrating various Google Maps services into the existing inventory application. Google’s Geocoding and Places APIs ease customer onboarding with simple and intuitive tools for plotting machine locations, auto-filling addresses and pinning machines to specific building corners to further aid route drivers. Woolpert and Vagabond implemented the Google JavaScript APIs to layer real-time machine data onto Google Maps for dynamic route scheduling based on machine inventory
, available cash or specified geographic parameters. Additionally, the Google Maps Directions API enables route managers to generate the fastest service routes for every truck in their fleet, all the while taking into account factors like road closures and traffic. Here’s how it works: When a machine’s product/sales threshold is reached, Vagabond’s application submits a service request to the appropriate operator, who then uses the updated inventory information to stock a truck with a made-to-order selection of desired food items. Similarly, operators are notified when maintenance needs are identified. The application then uses Google Maps information to plan out time-sensitive and cost-effective stocking routes. The combination of accurate inventories and consolidated stocking/maintenance runs results in significant cost savings for vending operators and a more consistent vending experience for consumers.

Results

In just under three months, the project team created a robust and efficient set of applications to streamline the vending machine stocking and maintenance processes. Michael Lovett, co-founder and CEO of Vagabond Vending, explains that “Using real-time sales data to customize product stock, eliminate theft and lower operating costs like machine maintenance, driver overtime and fuel, can result in a three-to-four times increase in overall profit margin for our customers. In an industry that generates $20 billion in domestic sales annually but historically only profits 2.5%, that equates to returning $3.5 billion to small businesses in America every year. That’s why we come to work in the morning, and thanks to Woolpert, we’re closer to our goal.” While this application of the Google Maps JavaScript API is relatively simple in nature, the benefit is quite impressive. With such a heavy emphasis on transport, this s
ector of the food service industry has proven to be a logical and highly profitable choice for partnership. Vagabond Vending provides operators around the country with powerful machine communications, enterprise resource planning software and technology financing solutions. During its nearly two-year relationship with Vagabond, Woolpert has integrated application updates, assisted with the launch of new Vagabond product features and provided continuing technical support.

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