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Automated Retail: Smart Vending Explodes, Creating a Surge in New Service Opportunities

May 24, 2023

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By Wael Mohammed, EVP of  Strategy

Vending machines have been around for a long time. While the first modern versions were patented in the 1880s, mathematician, and engineer Heron of Alexandria invented the earliest coin-operated vending machine in the first century. (It  dispensed holy water.)

Most of us have, at one time or another, felt grateful for that late-night candy bar or a hot cup of coffee when there weren’t any other available options. But today, automated retail is smarter than ever. Over the past year, smart vending has gained traction worldwide.

Installations of new smart vending machines and smart vending replacements are booming. And many other machines are being retrofitted to add smart capabilities. All these factors translate into new service opportunities.

How does Field Nation know? Because we’re seeing more requests for this type of work than ever before.  

Our data confirms the trend: the vending market is one of the fastest-growing areas of digitization right now.  

Today’s machines: 

  • offer a wider range of products, from fresh salads and cupcakes to electronic devices.
  • accept more convenient forms of payment, cashless, cardless, and using a smartphone.
  • connect to cloud inventory management systems, with remote monitoring in real-time. 

Smart vending machines are completely customizable, from displays and digital signage to touchscreens and UI. And now, AI algorithms can suggest products based on the recognition of an approaching customer’s age and mood!

These developments—along with the continued expansion of 5G cellular networks— make vending machines more profitable than ever and create a higher demand for field services that support smart vending installation, operation, and maintenance. 

 

What are the implications of smart vending adoption for field services?

Smart vending machines are transforming the retail landscape as IoT infrastructure expands. They offer convenient and contactless transactions with secure payment systems and digital wallets. However, upgrading to this technology requires qualified field service technicians to install and maintain the machines at dispersed locations nationwide. The demand for field services will increase as smart vending becomes more prevalent and profitable.

 

What field service skills are most important in smart vending?

​​Some of the most important skills for maintaining and optimizing smart vending machines include:

  • Installation: Setting up and connecting the smart vending machine to the power source, network, and other devices.
  • Commissioning: Testing and verifying that the smart vending machine is functioning properly and ready for use. 
  • Decommissioning: Removing and disposing of the smart vending machine when it is no longer needed or operational.
  • Firmware upgrades: Updating the software that controls the smart vending machine’s hardware and features. 
  • Card reader upgrades: Installing and updating card reader devices that accept various payment methods.
  • Card reader break/fix: Troubleshooting and repairing any issues with the card reader device that may affect payment transactions.
  • Periodic inspection: Conducting regular inspections and maintenance on the smart vending machine’s components, such as the touchscreen, conveyor belt, elevator, and sensors.
  • Overall equipment break/fix: Diagnosing and fixing any problems that may affect the smart vending machine’s operation.
  • Upgrades involving installing consumer-facing components: Enhancing the smart vending machine’s features and interactivity by adding or replacing components that allow more consumer engagement, such as screens that display additional information, real-time updates, digital signage, and video content.

 

How does smart vending affect inventory management and restocking? 

Smart vending machines are smart enough to change almost everything about how vending works. Retailers can now monitor their inventory remotely using cameras that indicate when a product needs to be replenished. Data analytics can track inventory and upload information to cloud systems in real-time. 

Physically counting inventory and restocking is finally a thing of the past. That’s a win-win for businesses and the field service companies and technicians that can install and maintain the technology that makes it possible. 

 

Smart vending isn’t just for the big guys

Your business doesn’t have to be huge to move in this direction. Big players may have the resources to hire a permanent team of field techs and move them from location to location. You don’t have to. Field Nation’s network of skilled technicians is tens of thousands strong, so you can find all the field service techs you need for all locations nationwide. 

Interested in expanding your presence in smart vending? If you’re ready to embrace the next generation of retail, Field Nation can help you find the technicians you need to make it happen. Whatever your plan. Wherever you are.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wael Mohammed

Wael Mohammed has been in the technology industry for three decades. He has held leadership roles in startups and large enterprises, including SPS Commerce, IBM, and Target. Wael is currently the Executive Vice President of Product Management & Strategy at Field Nation, and oversees strategy, product management, product design, and data science. He is a master in identifying product and market growth opportunities, taking new products to market, and maximizing product performance.

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