Case study: self-service vending machine & kiosk manufacturer uses rugged, reliable touch sensors for outdoor installations
01 July 2021
Italian self-service vending machine & kiosk manufacturer, Amtek, now opts for Zytronic's proven rugged & reliable touch sensors for all its outdoor installations – helping enable applications addressing customer needs during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Manufacturer of self-service systems, Amtek (now a Custom company) is enhancing the automated sale of products and services with an expanding range of 'Click & Collect' kiosks. The Italian manufacturer of specialist vending machines now depends upon Zytronic's projected capacitive technology (PCT™) for the touchscreens in all its outdoor kiosk designs.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, food shoppers struggled to secure booking slots for home deliveries, and consequently, supermarkets sought to offer more ways to fulfil customers' needs. A good example is Amtek's 'Click & Collect Drive' kiosk, which is increasingly being installed in supermarket car parks. Customers pre-order and pay for their groceries online and are sent a time slot and secure code, which they enter via the 21.5" all-weather touchscreen without needing to leave their car.
An extra advantage compared with a purely online shopping experience is that customers can add 'last minute' or impulse items to their shop. At the same time, the supermarket chain can also present special offers and upsell prior to the final transaction. Once checked in, customers are directed to park at a designated bay and open their car boot, so that their shopping can be loaded directly, maintaining social distancing. For customers unable to pay for their shopping online, a 'Drive Order' version allows for payment upon receipt of goods.
To offer an additional sales channel for people who may not have a car, wish to pick up a few items quickly, or are shopping in a pedestrianised zone, Amtek has created their 'Self-Service Cash' kiosk. The rugged, portrait-mounted 21.5" touchscreen it uses is large enough for the user to browse, select and order products clearly, but still enables the kiosk to have a small enough footprint for multiple units to be located side-by-side outside the shop.
Adding further to a supermarket owner's options, the Amtek manufactured 'Click & Collect Locker' units allow customers to shop outside regular opening hours. Once the groceries have been ordered and paid for, the supermarket staff place them within a refrigerator locker, which can be accessed when the customer types in a unique code sent to their mobile phone, using a smaller 15.6" Zytronic touchscreen. Amtek has expanded its range of lockers and can offer designs that can store groceries at ambient, chilled, or freezing (-18°C) temperatures, depending on the produce ordered.
Taking the traditional supermarket out of the equation entirely, Amtek's outdoor 'Click & Collect By-Hand' kiosks can be located at a lightly staffed and automated storage and distribution centres, thereby minimising costs and merchandising expense. Upon ordering, the groceries are picked directly at the warehouse and pre-bagged. The customer then enters an emailed/SMS code number onto the touchscreen enabled units located outside the warehouse. Like the 'Click & Collect Drive' service, they are directed to park in a designated bay and open their boot for the food to be loaded – again without even leaving their car.
Before Amtek switched to Zytronic's ZyBrid® touch sensors over five years ago, the touchscreen was often the 'weakest link' of the vending machines and kiosks. At the time, all-weather performance, resistance to vandalism, and long-term reliability were critical issues in often remote, outdoor locations. Matteo Ruggieri, owner & CEO at Amtek, decided to search for a better solution and turned to touchscreen specialist and long-time Zytronic partner, Patrice Romano of system integration specialist, Camax DS for advice.
"We immediately resolved the touchscreen issue by switching to Zytronic's proven ZyBrid® touch sensors combined with their ZXY100 controller," says Ruggieri. "The rugged sensors are made from 6mm thick, toughened glass to withstand almost all impacts and abrasions, and the controller offers fast, accurate, and reliable performance." Should the touchscreen be viciously attacked, the thermally tempered glass also minimises possible injuries, as it breaks into small cubes rather than large, dangerous shards. In addition, even if the damaged touchscreen is still usable, a vibration sensor within the Amtek kiosk triggers an alarm to the supermarket's operator requesting a swift repair.
Amtek has also recently released its new PharmaLocker V3 self-service kiosk. As the name suggests, these vending machines allow customers to collect medicinal prescriptions out of regular pharmacy hours or if the store is busy. Via an 18.5" landscape mounted ZyBrid® touch sensor, the user can now also engage in a video consultation with the pharmacist, conversing directly and providing a more engaging and personal experience.
"For any of our outdoor units, we now wouldn't use anything other than Zytronic's ZyBrid® touch sensors," adds Ruggieri. "These touchscreens are proven, rugged and reliable – saving on client cost, both in terms of maintenance and loss in revenue. We have also carefully considered the negative customer experience caused by a non-functioning or poorly performing touchscreen display – it can have a devastating impact on the supermarkets' or pharmacies' carefully built brand and reputation. I believe Amtek has grown in the last few years, partly because we chose to use Zytronic's specialist touch sensing technology – word of mouth combined with positive user and operator experiences are powerful tools in the self-service industry."
As a side note, Ruggieri recalls that during the initial talks between Camax, the prototype touch sensor was made from 8mm thick glass. However, Zytronic was able to perform impact testing at its comprehensive in-house R&D facility, demonstrating that 6mm toughened glass provides sufficient robustness to meet Amtek's needs, and reduces optical parallax and cost. "The rest is history," concludes Ruggieri.
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