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SKS Innovating People Begins U.S. And Global Rollout Of New Vending Concepts

Posted On: 6/15/2011

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Israeli Company Begins Marketing Neo Hot-And-Cold Beverage Machine,
Novel Can-It Adapter Pack For Soft Drink Venders In Global Marketplace

RAMAT-GAN, Israel -- Now entering widespread international distribution are two vending innovations that made their debuts in Israel. They are being made available in other countries, including the United States, by SKS Innovating People.

One is a versatile beverage vending machine, the Neo by SmartVend (Caesarea, Israel), which is designed to deliver a wide variety of hot or cold beverages and foods, including soups. SKS NeoModular in design, it is engineered for quick and easy parts replacement.

The vender's microprocessor-based controller offers straightforward programmability, for ease of changing menus. The manufacturer reports that the machine has been used to vend a very wide range of products. It incorporates canisters for 12 soluble or rehydratable products and add-ins (such as croutons for soup). In combination, these make possible custom menus that can offer more than 64 selections. Operators can make both sugar and a low-calorie sweetener available.

The canisters are arranged radially. When a vend is initiated, the assembly rotates to bring the appropriate canister into dispensing position. Several canisters may be accessed in sequence to prepare beverages with multiple ingredients.

Photo: Versatile hot-and-cold beverage vender combines stylish contemporary design with low parts count and minimal service requirements to deliver a diverse menu of drinks, soups and breakfast items.

A robotic arm picks up a cup and transports it to the ingredient filling position, where it receives a precisely measured portion from one or several canisters. The cup is then moved into position beneath the hot or cold water injector to receive a series of infusions of water, alternating with agitation by a variable-speed Teflon mixer that descends into the cup. After the last mixing cycle, the mixer retracts to a position above the surface of the drink but well below the lip of the cup, and spins at high speed to expel any residue by centrifugal force. Finally, the cup receives the remainder of the water. The transport arm then brings it to the front of the machine, where an elevator lifts it into the delivery well for easy retrieval by the customer.

This computer-controlled filling and delivery system has enabled Smartvend to eliminate the bundles of tubing normally associated with beverage machines. The parts count is low, components are easily replaced, and the onboard computer provides self-diagnostic functions that allow even nontechnical service personnel to identify and correct a malfunction.

The Neo uses a tankless heating system, which only draws power when a hot drink is being prepared. The short time during which water is in contact with the heating element also minimizes mineral deposition ("lime scale"). The machine is said to offer an energy saving of as much as 60%, compared with machines dispensing similar products.

The Neo stands 184 cm. (72.44") high and has a small footprint, measuring 55 cm. (21.65") wide x 64 cm. (25.20") deep. It is elegantly styled, featuring 8mm. exterior glass paneling with touchpad contacts. Its LED illumination combines long service life with enhanced energy efficiency, and its standby mode conserves power during low-traffic periods, further saving energy. It can hold up to 900 180-ml. (6 fl.oz.) cups; each product canister has a 4-kg. (8.82 lbs.) capacity.

SKS's Liron Gross reports that Smart­vend Neo machines have proven their practicality in the global market, including Latvia, Singapore, Canada and the United States, as well as Israel. She noted that the vender's versatility has enabled customers around the world to offer the products that their customers want, ranging from conventional hot and cold drinks to specialties as diverse as cornflakes, granola and recipes containing nuts. "We are always surprised by our customers," Gross told VT, "because they find more and more recipes. Our distributor in Latvia uses the machine to sell oatmeal."

The Neo is available with power supplies suitable to the domestic electrical grids of most nations.

SKS also is finding international customers for a novel adapter pack originally developed by Socrates Marketing Solutions to permit selling snacks alongside cold beverages in can vending machines. Called "Can It," it's cylindrical in shape, formed in a single piece with an integral hinge, and designed to snap shut snugly without the need for tape or adhesives. Can Its may be produced in a wide range of colors and light transmission properties, from transparent to opaque. It can be branded, and is easy to label.

SKS Can It

SKS's Gross explained that the concept was developed by two experienced vending operators who recognized that they were missing sales in locations too small to support a separate snack machine -- and that offering a drink and a snack in a single vend would increase the value perceived by the consumer.

Photo: Designed to permit vending a snack plus a drink as a single transaction at a can vender, the Can It adapter can be employed to adapt many other items for vending.

Last year, Gross reported, SKS conducted a case study with Can It in 500 soft drink machines run by the Mashkar unit of Coca-Cola Israel Group. Consumers were invited to make a combined purchase -- the two items were offered at a single price, and vended with a single button-press. Per-machine profit increased by an average of 19%, she said.

Can It may be used to vend a wide variety of products, Gross added. For example, one of Israel's largest fashion companies has marketed a line of t-shirts through conventional can venders, as part of a public relations campaign. And the company is considering the potential of selling travel kits from vending machines in train stations and airports throughout Israel.