Assessing Potential Kiosk Manufacturing Partners Pt. 4

In our three previous blog installments, we’ve talked about the different types of kiosk companies in the marketplace. Our last entry ended with what we believe is the best choice for most situations — Turn-Key Kiosk Providers, like RedyRef.  In this, our fourth and final blog in the series, we discuss which questions to ask potential manufacturers once the number of companies in the running has been narrowed down to a short list of two or three, and what kind of analysis is necessary to complete before making a final hiring decision. This final selection stage is, quite honestly, the most difficult. Having culled down a longer list of possibilities to one with only a few promising companies on it, it’s now absolutely critical to take the time to really dig in and gather all of the information available on the most seemingly-capable contenders. This is the only way to know which manufacturer is truly the right fit for the project in mind and is a process best completed in two stages: by identifying potential issues ahead of time (such as the red flags we discussed in the first blog of this series) by doing extensive research; and by asking the right questions of those kiosk companies still in the running. We’ll start with potential red flags that may arise during the investigative stage — warning signs that the company being considered may not actually be the best-possible choice:
1.       A website that features many photo-realistic renderings, but few actual photographs of installed products
2.       No available customer list that can be easily cross-checked for references
3.       A lack of transparency and access to information i.e. an abundance of answers along the lines of “We can’t share that with you because we are a privately held company.”
4.       No physical manufacturing location for fabrication or integration services
5.       No business offices that are available to tour
6.       Payment terms that are out of line with industry standards, i.e. requiring payment in full at project inception
7.       Lead times that are more than 16 weeks for any aspect of a complex, non-robotic manufacturing solution
8.       No showroom to view product examples
9.       Lack of understanding or knowledge regarding topics that should be intuitive for a quality shop, such as ADA compliance, NEMA rating or UL standards
Once the proper research into the company has been satisfactorily completed and those with red flags eliminated, there are a number of questions that should be asked of the project manager who would be leading the process.  These include:
1.     How many workers are employed?
2.     Where is the fabrication facility?
3.     Are facility tours available that include front and back office teams?
4.     What parametric engineering software is used to design products?
5.     How many licenses of this software are available to the company’s engineers?
6.     Are the engineers degreed in their field?
7.     Is a customer list available and are they able to be contacted directly for references?
8.     What are the company’s top-line sales for the current and previous year?
9.     Is an approved vendors list (AVL) utilized, and if so, are they able to be contacted to ensure all accounts are paid and up to date?
10.   Is the company a member of the Kiosk Trade Association?
11.   What industry trade shows are regularly attended?
12.   Has the company received any industry awards?
13.   What is the company’s return policy?
14.   What type of warranty in included for kiosk enclosures?
15.   What type of warranty is offered for kiosk components integrated into the enclosure?
Between the research performed and the answers received* (please see the “cheat sheet” below for more information regarding industry-standard answers) to the above inquiries, it should at this point be crystal clear if the company is credible, honest and and capable of producing quality product. As the industry’s go-to provider of turn-key kiosks for more than 100 years, RedyRef’s fully vertically-integrated manufacturing solutions have been fined-tuned to be efficient, cost-effective and of the highest-possible quality. Our goal is nothing less than complete customer satisfaction; that’s why when companies are ready to invest in kiosk enclosures, digital signage and software for their growing businesses, they know they can trust RedyRef. Ready now to hire a best-in-class kiosk manufacturer now? Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.
*Answers to the above questions.  Keep in mind, there may be some variation in the responses, but for the most part, they will remain a solid way to gauge the legitimacy of a kiosk company:
1.       How many individuals are employed by the company in total?
Answer: Should almost always be 30 or more individuals; a facility tour that includes the front and back offices is recommended in order to be able to fully assess the situation in person.
2.       Where is your fabrication facility?
Answer: Generally, it’s best if the facility is in the continental United States, so that it’s simple to tour the facility and see a prototype unit in person. There are definitely legitimate solutions overseas, but many companies find it preferable to work with manufacturers closer to home, especially when their production runs aren’t into the thousands.
3.       Are facility tours available that include front and back office teams?
Answer: Should usually be “yes.” It’s recommended that a tour always be completed before hiring a kiosk provider.
4.       What parametric engineering software is used to design products?
Answer:  PRO-E or Solidworks are the industry standard programs.
5.       How many licenses of this software are available to the company’s engineers?
Answer: No licenses and no engineers is not what you want to hear — it is probably not a turn-key kiosk provider if they outsource their design and engineering. Not enough licenses for the number of engineers on staff should also be considered a red flag.
6.     Are the engineers degreed in their field?
Answer:  Smaller metal shops do have the tendency or some ability to grow their own talent from within, but this is not the industry standard.
7. Is a customer list available and are they able to be contacted directly for references?
Answer:  Should always, always be yes; customers love to tell others — the good or the bad — about how they were treated.
8.     What are the company’s top-line sales for the current and previous year?
Answer: Top line revenue information is a must have; otherwise there’s no way to tell if the company is established in the marketplace.
9.     Is an approved vendors list (AVL) utilized, and if so, are they able to be contacted to ensure accounts are paid and up to date?
Answer: Suppliers don’t lie. If they’re getting paid on terms they’ll disclose that information. If they are not, they’ll be equally forthcoming. Happy suppliers are a must.
10.   Is the company a member of the Kiosk Trade Association?
Answer: Being a member means they are usually known in the marketplace, and a legitimate provider of kiosk solutions.
11.   What industry trade shows are regularly attended?
Answer: Not all companies attend trade shows, but if they do, it can be a great way to see how the company presents itself and check out other potential vendors at the same time.
12.   Has the company received any industry awards?
Answer: It’s one thing to attend trade shows, but it’s another to win an industry award. While not completely necessary as awards can be bought, an award does validate that their workmanship has been evaluated by expert outside sources and is considered viable.
13.   What is the company’s return policy?
Answer: The customer comes first, so the answer should always include a 100% satisfaction guarantee.  This may not mean they allow returns, but they should be willing to do everything in their power to “make it right.”
14.   What is your warranty on your kiosk enclosure?
Answer: Industry standard is one year on workmanship and labor.
15.   What type of warranty is offered for kiosk components integrated into the enclosure?

Answer: Any third-party component that Is passed through should still hold the original manufacturer’s warranty if the reseller is a legitimate reseller of that product.

Assessing Potential Kiosk Manufacturers Pt. 3

In last week’s blog, we began discussing the specific types of kiosk companies currently in the marketplace, starting with the worst of the bunch — Kiosk Pretenders.  Today, we’re moving on up the ranks to the next type of company on our list — Kiosk VARs. As the name states, Kiosk VARs (Value Added Resellers) make their money by adding some sort of value to the sales chain and/or kiosk manufacturing solution.  However, the type and quality of service they offer and the value the service provides can vary widely. VARs generally include:
  • Industrial design firms: Design products that are to be manufactured through techniques of mass production; in this case, kiosk enclosures
  • Kiosk installation and maintenance providers: Contract with kiosk manufacturers or directly with customers to install and often continue to service kiosks post installation
  • Advertising agencies: Work with the customer to create marketing campaigns based on kiosks’ design and purpose
  • Software providers: Create programs that run on kiosk hardware to enable it to perform the required tasks and functions
  • Mechanical engineering firms: Design the internal structure of the kiosk — the moving parts — ensuring all components work together as needed based on the customer’s requirements
After VARs, Kiosk General Contractors are next. KGCs are in most cases a significant step up; they provide a service in the same way a VAR does, but they also act as a general contractor for the project as a whole. They are both a part of the kiosk manufacturing process, but also responsible for managing the overall process, and all of the players involved, at the same time. KGCs can be any of the firms or providers listed above, under VARs. And with that, we’ve made it to the to top of our list — the pinnacle of kiosk company types: Turn-Key Kiosk Providers.  TKKPs have vertically integrated as many processes as possible into the manufacturing solution they offer. In this way, they are able to control most, if not all, aspects of kiosk production, from design and engineering, through fabrication and even maintenance, keeping as much as possible under one roof. RedyRef, understanding that TKKPs provide the best quality, value and service, has worked tirelessly over the last 100 years to build a kiosk company that is able to provide just this type of cost-effective, cohesive solution to our customers, with capabilities including:
  • Industrial Design
  • Mechanical Design
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Fabrication and all finishing processes, i.e. Powder Coating
  • Cabinet Assembly
  • Electronic Integration
  • Burn-In Testing
  • Packaging
  • Logistics
  • Shipping
  • Installation
  • Warranty
  • After-sell Maintenance
  • Software Design and Implementation
Once an analysis of the types of kiosk companies has been completed and a choice made, the process of elimination to narrow down the list of potential candidates of that type to the most promising ones should be fairly simple and fast. Unfortunately, the next step is not quite so quick and easy. In our next and final blog on this subject, we discuss which questions to ask and what kind of research should be done to ensure that the best kiosk company for the job is the one that is ultimately hired. Already done the research, asked the questions and come to the conclusion that hiring a Turn-Key Kiosk Provider is the best choice for your business?  The professionals at RedyRef are ready to assist you today with all of your kiosk design and fabrication needs. Submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 for more information.

Prior Planning Prevents (Really) Poor Kiosk Performance

At RedyRef, we understand that the odds of successful kiosk deployment increase greatly with proper planning. That process begins with asking the right questions in the right order:

  • What is the application?
  • Do you have or need software?
  • Where will the kiosk be deployed?
  • Do you have a budget and/or a target price?
  • Who will handle the kiosk design and engineering?
  • How will you handle installation?
  • What does the warranty cover?
  • What ongoing services will you need?

Need help answering these questions or want to know more?  Read the white paper, available at KioskMarketplace.com.


Assessing Potential Kiosk Manufacturers Pt. 2

In our last blog, we talked about red flags — things to look out for when assessing a kiosk manufacturer for a project. This week, we begin discussing the different types of kiosk companies we’ve run into in the past, or heard about from our customers: the good, the bad and the ugly.


At RedyRef, the way we view the different types of kiosk companies is by breaking it down into four parts: Kiosk Pretenders; Kiosk VARs (value-added resellers); Kiosk General Contractors; and Turn-Key Kiosk Providers.


So, let’s begin at the beginning.


Kiosk Pretenders: By far, the worst of the bunch and the ones to watch out for.  They may look or even sound like a manufacturer, but they rarely have anything to do with actually making any type of product whatsoever.  Generally speaking, the only thing these kiosk companies are making is money off of people who think they are getting a good deal, because at the end of the day, Kiosk Pretenders are really just marketing firms who are out to sell an idea — often at an unrealistically low price — to an unsuspecting buyer.


So what do the Kiosk Pretenders get out of the deal?  That’s simple; money!  Being a Pretender means you don’t actually manufacture anything, therefore you have no real investment; no “skin in the game,” so to speak. All they need to do is advertise to bring customers in, get them to sign a contract and then wash their hands of the entire thing. They have no control over any of the manufacturing or sourcing processes that go along with actually building a kiosk; instead, they use reseller agreements to sell what are often low-quality enclosures, at prices that are cheaper than what the general public can normally buy directly themselves.


As Pretenders, they don’t have any of the value-added reseller resources that would generally define a company as a VAR, either; in fact, most of the time, they have no real capabilities at all, other than salesmanship.  In other words: no industrial designers, mechanical engineers, electronics design specialists, fabrication facilities, integration expertise or ability to design kiosk software.  


Sounds like a pretty pointless type of organization to get involved with, doesn’t it?


In our next blog, we’ll talk about the next level up from Kiosk Pretenders — Kiosk VARs. But if you can’t wait until next week to find out more, our professionals are happy to help you now with all of your kiosk design and manufacturing needs. Simply submit a request for proposal online or call (800) 628-3603 today for more information.