TAYLOR, MI -- When it comes to software, many bulk vending and other coin equipment operators find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard, very expensive place. While off-the-shelf software may hit the right price point, standard software doesn't always provide the full functionality that vendors need. Custom software is a far better alternative, except for the price. Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a custom software suite can wipe out the cost savings gained through increased efficiency.
AccQ-Trak, developed by an operator, attempts to resolve this dilemma. Eric Hammond's Michigan Mini Vend LLC (Taylor, MI) required a powerful software package, and he had the system designed to fit his needs as a small bulk vending, crane and soft drink operator. Like all vending management systems, its heart is a database that stores information on locations and machines, and maintains a continually updated record of sales.
Photo | INITIATORS: Eric Hammond (left) and Tom Wielfaert are the creators of AccQ-Trak software for vending operators.
"The reason we developed our own database system is that there was nothing on the market available off the shelf that was simple to use," Hammond said. "We also wanted something we could download and keep on our computer, and not have it out in 'the Cloud' or someone else's servers that we would pay a monthly fee to be on. And we wanted something that could take the place of multiple Excel spreadsheets -- or even paper."
The process, Hammond remembers, began with the growth of his own route. As the business expanded, he found it increasingly difficult to keep the kinds of detailed records needed to make informed decisions.
"Once I reached 500 [bulk vending machine] heads, I couldn't keep track easily," he said. "So we went ahead and developed this database to get that under control. I found a programmer, sat down with him for four months and together we designed a system. Once it started to work, I thought it could benefit other operators.
Initially, Hammond was not looking to commercialize the software. "But once I found out how good it was, I decided to market it," he said. He reports that operators across the country have shown interest in the product since its introduction in November.
Hammond worked with Tom Wielfaert of Water Drop Software to develop the no-frills management information system. The system tracks all of an operator's locations, equipment, suppliers and vendible products, from 1" capsules to a bag of chips or can of soda.
FULL REPORT FUNCTIONALITY
Among the reports AccQ-Trak generates are equipment performance, collections (cash and meter, if equipment is metered), revenue totals, cost-of-sales breakouts, commission payments, sales tax obligations and product sales analyses. Hammond assigns particular importance to the system's ability to print out detailed collection tickets that identify heads in a location and products in each head. This allows the operator to load trucks efficiently before going into the field, and to take control of inventory. The objective, he explained, is to print a series of collection tickets corresponding to locations that are scheduled for service on a particular day, and then, at the end of the day, input the information collected while servicing them.
At a cost of under $500, Hammond makes no apologies for the absence of bells and whistles in AccQ-Trak. "There are no bar graphs, pie charts, background pictures or colors," he said. "We've kept out all the stuff an operator doesn't need and just put in the meat and potatoes."
Since accurate data entry is essential to any management information system, the software works best with metered machines. To this end, Hammond is offering his company's previously introduced AccQ Generation 10.1 (or AccQ Gen) meter system, designed specifically for use on the Beaver Machine Corp.'s New Generation coin mechanism.
"The meter cost is under $50," Hammond reported. It only fits on Beaver's New Generation mech.
Further information on the software and the meter may be found at the company's website, accqtrak.com.