Southern Refreshment Services Improves Pre-Kitting By Replacing Handhelds With Gimme Vending iPads 

Southern Refreshment Services, a Tucker, Ga.-based vending, micro market and refreshment services provider, has improved the accuracy of its pre-kitting and gained better visibility of its vending inventory by introducing Gimme Vending apps to its routes. The Atlanta, Ga. area company is replacing its handhelds with iPads that allow drivers to download DEX data via Bluetooth from the machines. The system easily integrates with the existing vending management software (VMS) programs and provides Southern Refreshment Services with better cash and inventory accountability.

Southern Refreshments Tucker GAThe driver plugs the key into the DEX port and links the key to the machine. The iPad can then DEX the machine through the Bluetooth connection.  Once saved and synced on the iPad, the data is sent to the cloud, then to company’s VMS.

The app screen shows the drivers the exact quantities to load for each machine. The route schedule screen shows the driver which machines need service.

The iPad Brings Benefits

Because the data is sent to the VMS via the iPad’s cellular connection, the picking operation does not have to wait for the handheld to return to the office to download the data. The pre-kitting process takes place earlier in the day, making the picking operation more efficient.The pre-kit quantities are determined by the operator’s vending management system, which in Southern Refreshment Services’ case is Crane Streamware.

Replacing the handhelds with iPads and the Gimmie App has allowed Southern Refreshment Services to improve efficiencies in several ways. They also use the technology to streamline pre-kitting, stop stock-outs, reduce returns and instantly transmit data to headquarters.

“The handhelds stood out far and above the biggest frustration point of any technology we were using,” says Dan Hart, CEO. “It’s archaic.”
“It (the handheld) is an out of date device that was costing us a fortune,” adds Scott Plaisted, director of vending. “There were no newer versions out. Nobody was making anything new. That’s why we were pressed to find something new.”

A Collaborative Effort

Plaisted met the owners of Gimme Vending two years ago when they were meeting with operators in the Southeast to learn about their technology needs.

Chris Hart, director of micro markets at Southern Refreshment Services, worked with Gimme Vending in developing the app-based system. The companies worked together for nearly a year while the software was under development. Southern Refreshment Services tested it on a few routes, suggested changes, and tested it again.

“We’re always looking for additional ways to improve the technology, but technology is  revolutionizing the way we do business,” Dan Hart says. “They were trying to duplicate the functions of the handheld. They’ve done that, plus they’ve improved it a lot.”

“The ease of using the iPad with the Gimmie App far surpasses anything else I’ve seen,” Hart adds. “I don’t have to buy any more DEX cables. I don’t have to send my handhelds off to be worked on. I don’t have to worry about DEX ports being pulled out of the board or bad DEX cables.”

Replacing Handhelds

In the process of working with Gimme Vending, Southern Refreshment Services discovered it was spending about $30,000-plus per year on handheld repairs. “If I have to buy another handheld, I’ve got to spend, for a used one, about $500,” Hart says. “For a brand new one, it costs anywhere from $750 to $1,100.” Replacing handheld batteries,  DEX cables and DEX ports were oftentimes a time consuming and costly inconvenience.

The iPad has also made life easier for the driver by providing a bigger screen and better user interface. The drivers can see their route on the screen in a list or map view. The machines in the list move to one side of the screen when completed.

“I’ve been going to the NAMA One Show for years, looking for an alternative to the handheld because of the frustration the handhelds were causing,” Hart says.

Conversion To iPads Continues

The company has deployed the Gimme Key on 3,500 machines, and is adding about 100 per week. The Gimmie Keys will be deployed on machines on all 40 vending routes. Southern Refreshment Services will have all 5,000 machines using the Gimmie key at the end of deployment.

“Our drivers have been able to cut down the times it takes to do an inventory on the machine with the better user interface and the larger screen,” Plaisted says. “And it actually shows pictures of the items.” With drivers doing a better job inventorying machines, the company has been able to get better pre-kitting data.

“When we were on the handheld, we had to get back to the warehouse to sync our handhelds so we could get our data to pick their daily totes,” Plaisted says. “Now we lock in their orders, the pick line picks their orders, and they’re ready to load their truck when they get back.”

“Some of our guys start at 2 in the morning and they’re coming in at 1 (a.m.) to load their truck,” he adds. “This way, they’re able to load their trucks in the afternoon and take a little bit more time in the morning.”

The system reduces the driver’s work load and reduces overtime on the pick line since there is less down time. Where the pick line employees used to leave at 6:30 p.m., they now leave at 5 p.m.

Southern Refreshment Services drivers have always been required to inventory a machine at every fourth to sixth visit. Drivers are now taking it upon themselves to inventory machines more frequently since they see how it improves the accuracy of the pre-kitting.

“They’re doing it more frequently because it doesn’t take them as much time as it did previously, and it guarantees they’re getting perfect totes every time they go,” Plaisted says.“Gimme has given us a more efficient and better way to get our data from our machines into our servers.”

During the testing, it was hard in the beginning to get drivers to want to work with the iPads. Now all the drivers want to use them.The system has clearly improved driver morale.

The keys have been reliable. If there is a defective key, Gimme Vending replaces it.

A Technology Pioneer

Southern Refreshment Services has long been a technology pioneer. The company was among the first to test the USA Technologies cashless system in the 1990’s.

The company anticipates expanding telemetry as it rolls out more machines that have telemetry installed. It already gathers some data from Navigator telemetry in Crane Merchant Media vending machines.

Southern Refreshment Services has tested telemetry technology in the past, but it has never deployed any of the retrofit telemetry systems beyond the testing stage. The company did not think it could utilize telemetry effectively without restructuring the entire business.

Meanwhile, by improving the accuracy of the pre-kitting with Gimme Vending, the company is making significant progress and does not feel compelled to invest in telemetry at the present time.

Visit Southern Refreshment Services website:

by Elliot Maras

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