Top 6 Factors to Consider When Evaluating a Kiosk Manufacturer
This article dives into the top factors prospective buyers should consider when evaluating kiosk manufacturing partners for their business solution.
Over the last decade, self-service kiosks have gained rapid adoption across industries. Starting out as strictly informational guides, operators have come to leverage self-service kiosks to drive efficiency gains across their business through lower labor costs and faster customer checkouts. However, as adoption continues and self-service kiosks become mission-critical to revenue and operations, buyers are demanding more from their kiosk manufacturers. While we have yet to see a ubiquitous leader in this space, we can define six factors for evaluating kiosk manufacturers.
Factor 1: Quality Manufacturing and Materials
You should expect a high-quality kiosk to last your organization for somewhere between 3 to 7 years, depending on the deployment environment. Indoor kiosks should last 5 to 7 years, while outdoor kiosks last 3 to 5 years). A self-service kiosk requires quality manufacturing processes and materials to reliably last this long and prevent a higher Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) from shorter lifespans on cheaper products.
A kiosk has highly valuable inventory inside, such as physical products, cash, or expensive computers and other smart kiosk components. As a result, kiosks have gone from convenience technology to a regulated standard to protect buyers and consumers. Today, self service kiosk manufacturers must use materials, manufacturing methodologies, and assembly practices that are regulated and audited by standards such as Underwriters Laboratories and others.
Factor 2: Comprehensive Support and Maintenance
Once you select a kiosk manufacturer, that supplier will forever be a partner in the on-going lifecycle management of your kiosk deployment. You will almost always require some level of support from your manufacturing partner beyond the initial purchase process. Most likely, you will be busy building other parts of your business and will want to rely on your supplier to address any issues impacting operations.
In some cases, kiosk manufacturers will offer remote kiosk management services through a team of support specialists in their network operations center (NOC). They will leverage remote monitoring and management (RMM) software to support your kiosk fleet and can be held responsible for minimizing uptime.
These remote support services come at a premium, but often, buyers with less in-house technology expertise see tremendous value in outsourced support because it helps minimize kiosk downtime. If your team has more technical expertise in-house, you may be able to handle remote kiosk management internally, but you should still consider if you want to own onsite support for break-fix issues or maintenance repair and operations (MRO).
Going onsite to physically repair a device is often the longest path to resolution, and every second of downtime hurts your brand image. Having a partner that can quickly get onsite and effectively repair devices on the first visit helps minimize the impact on end-user experience. Furthermore, a third-party partner with a team of trained technicians familiar with your hardware saves you from needing to build that capability in-house and creates a huge operational advantage.
Today, more kiosk manufacturers are building large remote and onsite support teams to offer better managed service capabilities. First, you must decide on the right operating model for your business: Will you own or outsource remote support? Will you own or outsource onsite support?
Once you have answers to these operating model questions, you should look to understand the support and maintenance services offered by kiosk manufacturers.
Factor 3: Technology and Integrations
Technology is at the core of any successful kiosk deployment. Leading manufacturers should work with a wide range of technology providers to ensure they are providing the buyer with the best available options for modularity, uptime, longevity, and serviceability.
A few of the common technologies that should be supported by a robust kiosk manufacturer are payment acceptance mechanisms, identification methods, and goods delivery (i.e., smart vending or smart locks). Typically, these technologies are supported through integrations with leading smart hardware providers, but in some cases the manufacturer may build their own.
In either case, it is critical to also ensure that the proper software integrations have been completed that enable kiosk monitoring and kiosk management software platforms to be deployed and used on the devices. These software systems will become increasingly essential for remote kiosk management tasks such as remote customer support and software upgrade maintenance as your kiosk fleet grows.
Factor 4: Customizability and Innovative Design
The “one-size-fits-all” approach has become obsolete in today’s kiosk world. Each kiosk deployment will be unique based on the industry, functional use case, parts needed (e.g., payment devices, printers, etc.), and the overall enclosure design. Self-service kiosk deployments are an extension of your company’s brand, and the best manufacturers will excel in providing customizable and innovative designs tailored to meet the unique needs of your deployment.
When selecting a kiosk manufacturer to partner with, you should look to understand how much they will invest in engineering resources to provide a tailored experience. For larger deployments, these engineering resources are key in creating a functional design that aligns with your brand and still provides a user-friendly experience.
Factor 5: Supply Chain Scalability and Reliability
Not only is it important for your kiosk manufacturer to create a unique and customer branded kiosk for the buyer’s deployment, but they also must have the means to scale their manufacturing capabilities. Lead times for new kiosk deployments are a crucial aspect that should be taken into account when estimating your ability to meet launch deadlines.
If a kiosk manufacturer does not own the physical manufacturing or assembly processes, then the buyer is subject to a potential lead time debacle that is outside their supplier’s control. Equally important, if the kiosk manufacturer owns the entire process of the assembly, they should have the ability to run multiple customer builds at the same time. When these conditions are not met, the buyer puts their delivery timelines at risk and may have to resort to leveraging a secondary manufacturer, which introduces more complexity into remote kiosk management.
Factor 6: Compliance and Industry Regulations
Kiosk software is intertwined with highly regulated industries such as payments and healthcare, and compliance standards often come into question. Newer technologies, such as visitor management kiosks in hospitals, are not exempt from an audit under these compliance standards. As such, a kiosk manufacturer should have the necessary documentation and experience to support these kinds of regulations to demonstrate they are compliant.
Other regulatory items to evaluate are your company’s environmental footprint initiatives or any sustainability regulations you are subject to. Kiosk manufacturers are subject to environmental audits and should be able to offer data and advisory assistance to help fit into the environmental considerations your business is facing. Overall, a manufacturer’s subject matter of expertise and preparedness in supporting your business through compliance and regulatory audits should play into your decision-making process.
Kiosk manufacturers have many more capabilities and responsibilities today than 10 years ago in helping your business deliver a best-in-class self-service kiosk solution. As a result, there is much more to consider as a prospective buyer. Top kiosk manufacturers should be constantly building in these new feature requirements or partnering with companies so they can offer their complete suite of support. Experience has proven that kiosks are here to stay, and adoption will only continue. It is now up to the kiosk manufacturers of today to continue to iterate and expand their offerings, expertise, and services to compete in this rapidly expanding market.