Mike Brown stumbled into the vending business in 1987. He learned the ropes in sales, moved into middle management as a route and warehouse supervisor, and ultimately steered daily operations as general manager.
In 2003, Brown was recruited by PGI Services where he sits as managing partner. What began as a “vending company doing a little bit of coffee” has emerged as a leader of micro markets, free pantry and high-end coffee providers.
Brown likes being out front. Way out front. Technology “drives what we do,” and embracing this strategy has served PGI well. Having installed the first cashless vending machine at Salt Lake City Int’l Airport in 2003, PGI now boasts a 100% cashless vending portfolio.
Next up, micro markets. PGI entered the emerging sector in 2010 when most vending operators were taking a wait-and-see approach. The move proved visionary. Research firm Bachtelle & Associates projects that there will be 35,000 micro market locations by the year 2022, generating $1.6 billion in revenue. PGI currently operates 150 of those sites.
The last five years have seen Brown further increase PGI’s presence into the free pantry and high-end coffee markets offering bean-to-cup platforms, espresso machines, and specialty roast coffees. Product SKUs currently top over 1400.
The first time Brown saw LightSpeed live, PGI was still a vending company pre-kitting off of paper. He knew FastTrack would be a game changer, and it was. Since early adoption, PGI has gone on to double the number of lines they have “on lights” with FastTrack, and they have fully integrated both of their branches. Every product that leaves either site is now moved through LightSpeed.
Richard Branson says “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” PGI is no exception. Their launch into the micro markets sector brought disruption. With the addition of each new platform, starting with Avanti and then Company Kitchen, 365 Retail, and Free Pantry, problems arose. Running Streamware as their VMS, creation of the purchase order and receipt were seamless, but when the product was picked they would lose track of inventory. “This is when the need for something better” became obvious, said Brown.
Brown remembered hearing about LEVEL, Lightspeed’s inventory management solution, and wondered if this product would revolutionize his inventory in the same way that FastTrack had transformed his picking procedure. He called different sites using LEVEL to hear their opinion of the product and ultimately decided to sign on. PGI currently uses LEVEL as their inventory management system at both locations.
When asked where LEVEL has created the greatest impact, Brown says that he can now “sit at his desk, pull up reports and see inventory levels at his warehouses without physically going there with paper and clipboard.”
“LEVEL can actually restock our warehouses for us,” says Brown.
A single LEVEL administrator can now make product changes and maintain inventories at both locations. It has simplified operations, improved efficiency, allowed for a reduction in staff, and because of LEVEL, PGI now carries 20% less inventory.
Along with the accolades, however, Brown adds that the onboarding process was challenging. Product descriptions and SKUs had to be standardized, and his team had to make major changes to their daily processes so that LEVEL could do its job.
They went little by little – starting with smaller suppliers and purchase orders first and then gradually added larger ones as they became more familiar with the software. It took several months before they had all of their inventory in LEVEL and were able to completely turn over control and rely on it to manage their warehouse, but Brown readily admits that the hard work was more than worth it. No one on his team, himself included, wants to go back to life before LEVEL. He wonders how they ever managed without it.
Mike Brown is always looking ahead — looking for the next technology to make more money, bring about greater efficiency, or give them a leg up on the competition. He likes that PGI was one of the early adopters of LEVEL. They went cashless before anyone else, jumped into micro markets while still in their infancy, and moved into free pantry when many still have not yet made the leap.
Mike Brown and PGI will always be on the cutting edge, and LightSpeed celebrates their success and looks forward to being part of their continued growth.
LightSpeed will be in Europe from February 4 – 20, 2019. Sean Scale, Director of Implementation, and Brian Bembridge, Implementation Specialist, are visiting four Selecta branches – Frankfurt (Germany), Kirchberg (Switzerland), Paris (France), and Zurich (Switzerland) – to install Lightspeed technology. Each location will be outfitted with either the Mobile or the FastTrack pick-to-light system, which is an expansion for Kirchberg and a brand new installation for the remainder of the sites.