Changing the world for better... at least the world of gas stations)

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How IT solutions of my companies help to fight against COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a powerful impact on all areas of public life, including catering and retail. The threat of the spread of the coronavirus and the associated restrictions have made adjustments to consumer behavior and daily habits. Thus, according to the research agency Nielsen, two-thirds of consumers among others have become much more likely to wash their hands and maintain social distance.

It became obvious that the world needs new technologies in the areas of retail, services and catering that will help to systematically fight against COVID-19. Such technologies may be described as “contactless”, “remote” and “antivirus”. They have become top-priority technologies.

All these technologies can be divided into three groups:

  • Technologies aimed at reducing contacts between consumers (clients) and working personnel.
  • Technologies for protecting the surface of goods from viruses.
  • Surface disinfection systems that destroy existing viruses and microbes.

Many of my innovations have already been tested in the past years, but the pandemic has accelerated their adoption to customers and the beginning of commercial operations. By the beginning of 2020, within the perimeter of my businesses, there were a number of successful IT solutions that were already used by companies in 10 countries — large food retailers, oil companies, catering and fast-food companies. For example, the BMS Cloud platform began to be used by the largest companies from the North America to the UAE long before the pandemic, but the pandemic was an important catalyst that showed the particular importance of the technologies that we developed, because they became effective fighters against the spread of COVID-19.

However, there were also technologies that were in the stage of unreadiness of the market for their large-scale application. They were developed by my IT company to a certain high degree of readiness, tested, but were not put into commercial operation. Some of the technological developments were «lying on the shelf» for very obvious reasons — justifying their necessity and benefit would take more resources than the commercial profit from selling them. Therefore, the developments were postponed in stand-by mode and were waiting in the wings.

But at the beginning of 2020, events took place that turned our lives upside down. And oddly enough, some of the technologies put off for the future suddenly became incredibly valuable in terms of the systemic fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

IoT platform for managing coffee businesses “BMS Coffee Control”

The platform, which proved itself long before covid times, helps companies not only reduce the cost of servicing of coffee equipment, but also more than 3 times reduce the number of visits of service engineers to retail facilities. In 2020, the usefulness of the platform in a pandemic was even more evident. As a rule, coffee equipment requires a visit by a service engineer almost every month, service visits occur during business hours or before the opening of let’s say a cafe. At the same time, it is clear that no matter what precautions are taken by the service personnel or the cafe staff, additional contact of people is inevitable. A service mechanic can become a carrier of the virus, because in one working day he travels around several points. It is obvious that the 70% reduction in the number of contacts, which we are achieving at 4 thousand points of sale of customers connected to BMS Coffee Control, makes a significant contribution to the general front of the fight against the pandemic. Remote monitoring of the condition of coffee machines using BMS technology allows you to reduce contacts and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19.

Photo: the interface of the BMS Coffee Control mobile application for monitoring the condition of the equipment.

Creation of networks of automated self-service coffee points

In addition to the mentioned above, the BMS Coffee Control platform allows the development of such a format of catering establishments as automated self-service coffee corners. When you buy coffee yourself, you are not in contact with baristas, waiters and other employees who previously met with a huge number of people and may be virus carriers. You prepare a drink at the touch of a button on the coffee machine or using your smartphone without even a single touch of the coffee machine. Thus, you not only get high-quality coffee in a convenient way without queues and tedious waiting, but also reduce the likelihood of the spread of coronavirus.

Photo: automated coffee point Vortex Coffee

Mobile application «I’m a barista» for remote coffee ordering with control of coffee strength and milk quantity

Another technology that is certainly useful in a difficult epidemiological situation is the “I’m a barista” system. The solution allows customers of self-service coffee points to order and adjust the taste of coffee using their smartphone. Even before the onset of the COVID-19 era, the technology began to be used by more than 1000 convenience stores of Vkusville, Gazpromneft and other companies. The pandemic has opened up additional benefits. Now you can order coffee at a self-service coffee point without touching the coffee machine at all, but using only your own phone. It is enough to point it at the QR code and then all the actions for preparing the drink are performed only on the phone. As a result, you make take-away coffee without unnecessary contacts and touching potentially unsafe surfaces.

Photo: VkusVill, menu of the application «To myself barista»

The UV-treated automated coffee cup dispenser in a weatherproof enclosure 

It is a technology that has been gathering dust on the shelf only because it was a norm to store paper cups for coffee to go in the open space. For catering outlets, it was the norm that cups lay in a stack on a shelf and all visitors could freely touch them. Even those who will not drink coffee. That time the degree of the possible threat was not clear, but COVID-19 changed the situation. The highest demands are now being placed on the safe storage and dispensing of disposable tableware. Our dispenser dispenses cups automatically, one at a time. All cups are stored in a protected case, where germs and viruses can not get, for example, when visitors sneeze. Moreover, each cup is automatically disinfected before being dispensed using built-in ultraviolet lamps of the same type, which disinfect the air in medical institutions.

Photo: coffee solution equipped with an automatic UV dispenser

Technologies of contactless payments for coffee on professional automatic coffee machines

My company was the first in the history of Canada to introduce contactless payments on professional WMF coffee machines. The WMF company is the world leader in the production of automatic coffee machines with the largest share of the world market, however, the peculiarities of Canada’s payment systems and WMF software did not allow solving the problem of connecting payment terminals to coffee machines without updating the software. I created a working group that unites NAYAX and other service companies to implement a project for connecting payment terminals to WMF coffee machines. Several months of hard work and testing allowed us to solve the problem and bring the Canadian market closer to the large-scale introduction of self-service coffee corners.

Many technologies developed within the BMS Cloud platform have shown their effectiveness and profitability for business long before the coronavirus pandemic. But in the current times, they have demonstrated even greater market demand, and now I am putting great emphasis on developing technologies for public catering and retail that will further reduce the likelihood of the spread of COVID-19.

Despite self-isolation and social distancing, people, as in the past, want and will go to shops and cafes, buy their favorite drinks and eat deliciously. “Digitalization of business” and the introduction of safe technologies, in my opinion, is one of the few ways to comply with the new pandemic “rules of the game”.

Even A Wise Man Stumbles

Any professional community should have a strict hierarchy based on some fundamental criteria. The hierarchy is supposed to feature both proven leaders and outsiders as well as highlight bold rookies and former jet sets in a particular industry. Everyone takes an appropriate position that fits the level of trust and reputation.

IT Solutions for Non-Fuel Business and Gas Station Chains

What does the term «smart gas station» mean? What features it should have? How can IT solutions boost its operation in relying on all aspects of the non-fuel business and gas station chains? These are the question we are going to discuss in this article.

New Business Niche Brings Coffee to the Office

Today, we can hardly imagine a modern office without coffee. It is not just a casual beverage for employees. The drink may influence the level of productivity as well as create a harmonious atmosphere for communication and creativity. On the other hand, coffee may turn a typical office into a beneficiary niche from business perspectives. Is it possible to turn a coffee room into an efficient business model? It certainly is. We will tell you how.

Starbucks to Conquer the Chinese Market

The world’s coffee giant seems to have serious intention to conquer the Chinese coffee market by means of mobile technologies. The company is launching its new “Sayitwith Starbucks” service in collaboration with the largest social network in China featuring over 846 million users.

Cloud-Based Solutions in Logistics

My expert comments given to LogLerney portal appeared to be the fundamental issue for this article. I do consider cloud-based technologies have a huge potential for the entire field of logistics.

Cloud-based solutions and backup have proved to be a better alternative to traditional options. A growing number of applications and management software lets businesses reduce the costs and concentrate on some prior issues and targets. What is the idea of such advanced supply chain managing tools and how can they be implemented in logistics?

Why сonsulting does not always work?

Alexander Kuzmin, RusHOLTS CEO, spoke at the conference «Global and local markets of oil and petroleum products: the analysis, pricing, trade flows«, presenting the report on the non-fuel businesses of filling stations. Development and marketing of modern gas station chain have become relevant and even a prime-time topic for Russian gas station chains, both large and small. Request for an effective program of roadside service comes from the top of the Vertically Integrated Oil Companies’ management which is good. On the other hand it is sad that in the minds of many leaders the level of understanding of the non-fuel business development remained at the 2010 level.

Recently, representatives of the world’s leading management consulting companies have spoken a lot about the need for Russian gas stations chains to develop their potential of non-fuel businesses. In most cases, to the audience’s attention are offered the «best practices» based on the experience of more mature foreign markets with no less than half a century of history. Why are these recommendations still not massively implemented in the Russian conditions?

Is it possible to get the «George Clooney effect» coffee sales at the gas stations?

Let’s talk about the habit of drinking coffee outside the home in Europe, Canada and Russia. Drinking coffee at the gas station, taking a cup of coffee to go on the way to work are the new habits of the modern metropolises inhabitants which change the coffe-drinking traditions in different countries around the world.

Mornings in the establishments of the Canadian coffee chain  in any city of Maple Leaf Country starts in the exact same way. The crowd of visitors sweeps stocks of coffee and pastries in the blink of an eye — the nation is one of the most coffee-addicted in the world, which is confirmed by the impressive figures of consumption and the degree of prevalence of drink among absolutely all categories of citizens in terms of monthly income, place of residence, occupation, etc. .

In 2015, the country has topped the list of 80 countries in terms of coffee consumption, calculated in liters per capita that are bought and cinsumed in catering establishments — mostly in the cafes. In terms of absolute consumption, including the volumes of coffee beverages drunk at home, Canada is the third in the world with 152 liters per person each year. Ahead are only Netherlands and Finland coffee fiends, confirms the authoritative Euromonitor study.

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Why I invite Costa Express in Russia or «Welcome and No Trespassing»

«Without my friends there’s a little bit of me, but with a lot of friends there’s plenty of myself» – lines from a soviet children’s song perfectly describes the essential meaning of co-operation in any business. You can be the author of most innovative solutions, to develop breakthrough technologies, but it’s only going to be possible to bring it to a state of «finished product» by going through a complex chain of cooperation with a number of business partners.

And this is true even for applied business initiatives of the microscopic, compared to the market standards, formats. Opening a small shop selling two or three positions of coffee beverages and about the same range of pastries (i.e. we’re talking about literally micro scale of business, not even SMBs), immediately causes the owners of such an enterprise to the need to acquire the suppliers of coffee machines, cups, coffee beans or ready-to-use blends , semi-finished products for baking, microwave oven — and so on and so forth.

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Is Your Cup of Coffee Worth Paying that Price?

How much should a cup of your favorite coffee cost? What key factors does the price include? Which coffee is cheaper? One will hardly find the exact answer to all those questions when considering a well-flavored aromatic drink, as we are speaking of a tasty one. 

Regularly proceeding with an in-depth statistics and analysis, coffee market experts are very unlikely to reveal the truth. They know that the average price may range from $0.5 to $1 per cup of your beloved espresso or Americano. Those drinks do not require additional ingredients like milk making cost price lower if compared with latte o cappuccino. Producers and marketers benefit from enormous revenues selling their products with up to 1000% markup. For this reason, the niche appears to have a great potential for businesses, which use all possible means to protect their segment keeping newcomers away. They established an average market price, which is about $1 per cup.

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