Our company, UAB Raso, has developed an innovation in the retail sector – self-service machines for controlled and small goods, which work with specially generated QR codes. These machines were first introduced for the sale of tobacco products and for tracking balances at self-service checkouts, where the age of the customers must be verified to ensure that only people over 20 years of age can buy such goods.
The introduction of these self-service machines has started in Norfa stores. The solution enables faster and more convenient management of the flow of tobacco products purchased at self-service checkouts and allows customers to purchase these products in a single shopping trip with other goods.
“Employees who supervise the self-service checkouts in supermarkets have a responsibility to ensure the smooth operation of not just one, but several, and sometimes several dozen checkouts. The additional time and supervision required so far has been for the dispensing of tobacco products. In some cases, retailers have solved this problem by selling tobacco products separately at information desks, which is not, however, convenient for the byers. The tobacco vending machines we have installed optimise the processes: tobacco products are paid for together with other goods at self-service checkouts, and they can be collected independently from self-service machines with a printed QR code,” says Ričardas Tamašiūnas, sales manager of UAB Raso, which develops technological systems for trade, logistics and production.
The principle of operation of self-service machines is very simple from the user’s perspective. When shopping at self-service checkouts, the customer selects the desired tobacco product at the touch of a few buttons. The customer’s age is confirmed, the goods are paid for, and a unique QR code is printed along with the purchase receipt. Once scanned on the tobacco machine’s screen, the machine dispenses the purchased product. All the machines are located next to self-service checkouts, so picking up goods is quick and easy.
“It is very convenient for customers, but the benefits are mutual, as the employee has only one task in the whole process – to check the customer’s age. Self-service machines allow the salesperson to focus on his/her direct job – maintaining the self-service checkouts, rather than dispensing goods,” says Vitalijus Garbauskas, the CEO of UAB Raso.
However, the principle of operation of self-service machines only seems simple. In fact, the operation of the machines had to be synchronised with the self-service checkouts to ensure that the sales process complied with the law and ran smoothly.
“We borrowed the principle of the vending machine itself from our colleague Azkoyen, a Spanish company that produces vending machines for coffee, snacks and tobacco products. In Spain, the law allows you to buy tobacco products right on the street. We brought in the idea and the parts, but we programmed the equipment to work with self-service checkouts. For the customer, it’s just one click, but the system itself is running dozens of queries at the same time. When the customer selects the product they want, the self-service checkout sends a request to the tobacco vendor and receives a response to whether there is enough stock to sell the product. If the stock decreases, the vending machine sends a signal to the cash register, which is supervised by the seller, indicating which items should be restocked. In just a few seconds, the whole communication chain between the different devices is complete, and the customers do not even notice it – they instantly receive the product they have chosen,” says R. Tamašiūnas.
According to V. Garbauskas, the introduction of tobacco vending machines facilitates the work of the entire self-service checkout system. Employees no longer have to manually count the balances of goods or spend time on additional customer service, and human errors are avoided – everything is done accurately and smoothly. When placing goods in the machine, employees mark which goods and how many have been stocked with a few clicks, and the system keeps track of the rest.
The self-service machines are currently only installed in Norfa stores, but interest from other retailers is growing, and more and more inquiries are being received. This is a market innovation that can be extended to a much wider range of goods in the future.
“Having witnessed the real benefits of the technology, retailers are introducing it not only for self-service but also at all checkouts for tobacco sales. It is much more convenient for the customers to print the QR code and collect the product themselves, as the machine takes care of the balance and ensures accuracy. Moreover, self-service machines can easily be transformed into a dispensing point for other items, especially small items that are difficult to track. The equipment has a wide range of applications and seeing the success of the technology programmed by our team, we are already developing new ideas for innovative integrations in retail chains,” says R. Tamašiūnas.