The famous quote from Godin holds great significance for businesses as they come across new ideas and opportunities. Consider the rapidly evolving retail sector, for example. Labor shortages, consumer demands propelled by immediate gratification, and the COVID pandemic continue to drive more opportunities in the sector, especially in automated retail. Leaders need to latch on to this opportunity and build new tools to enhance their ability to connect and sell to customers. However, unfortunately, there are hardly any engineering houses that can bring their ideas into reality with a clear roadmap.
Commercial Automation (CA) is here to change that.
"We have adopted Godin's maxim," says Jeff Klemp Chief Operations and Administration Officer & Co-Founder of CA. "There have been and continue to be many fantastic retail automation ideas, but no nimble, efficient bridge to move a company from idea to reality," Klemp adds. "CA is that 'conduit,' guiding clients to success."
CA was formed to bridge the clear gap between retailers' desire to provide automated vending solutions and implement that desire. "We recognized there were many well-funded engineering houses that could craft amazing devices, but they were risk-averse or extremely expensive during the idea validation stage, and therefore unable to successfully implement the retailers' concepts," states Klemp. In late 2016, Klemp, along with his co-founder, John Laspia, began curating a team of top leaders, designers, and operators to establish a cohesive best-in-class solutions provider.
Fast forward to today, and CA operates as an agile designer, developer, and manufacturer of innovative robotic kiosk solutions. The company provides clients across multiple industries with complete solutions for developing, launching, deploying, and operating robotic kiosks. Its powerful, reliable robotic kiosk management SaaS software solution, Kiosk Automation Management Platform (CA-KAMP), serves as a business-centric hub to deliver partners with the centralized control of their unmanned kiosk fleet. The solution leverages the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) best practices and a micro-manufacturing plant approach to provide end-to-end visibility into the robotic processes.
CA believes that listening with intention is paramount to materialize a retailer's kiosk idea. CA's team understands the client's vision and reviews the opportunity from the client's perspective.
Part of our success in translating the client's vision to reality is mastery of topics that are less flashy, like regulatory compliance and patent research
Turning Clients' Vision into Reality
CA believes that listening with intention is paramount to materialize a retailer's kiosk idea. CA's team understands the client's vision and reviews the opportunity from the client's perspective. The company then leverages its years of experience in retail operations to develop interactive robotics that helps the client dimensionalize the full potential of the idea. The company has developed a set of offerings focused on guiding its clients through all phases of the kiosk product lifecycle, from design and manufacturing to deployment and ongoing support.
CA understands the nuances of every challenge the client may face during a project, including regulatory compliance, which is a critical component of any project. This often does not receive proper attention during the discovery phase, leading to significant delays as clients must go back and make major changes because they were unaware of compliance constraints in the beginning. "Part of our success in translating the client's vision to reality is mastery of topics that are less flashy, like regulatory compliance and patent research. These topics can create significant barriers to entry and can create consternation if not understood early in the process," mentions Klemp. CA invests time to show clients the manufacturing process roadmap and listen to their feedback to improve it. "It is important to have these checks and balances in place so that in the end, the client gets what is wanted and needed," adds Klemp.
Exemplary Customer Success Stories
What makes CA a proven leader is its straightforward, nimble client onboarding and engagement process. For example, CA was engaged by Basil Street Cafe (BSC) to develop a proprietary, unattended robotic retail kiosk for cooking and dispensing pizzas. CA assessed the market and quickly determined that there were no solutions that could rapidly and reliably provide well-cooked, great-tasting pizza and saw the opportunity to secure a patent on the solution for BSC. "We developed a roadmap to design, prototype and manufacture the solution," says Klemp. The unit was built to be robust and modular, minimizing field supply chain costs and maximizing reliability and scalability. The result was a best-in-class solution that created a customer experience second to none.
There have been and continue to be many fantastic retail automation ideas, but no nimble, efficient bridge to move a company from idea to reality.
CA was awarded a patent for the overall Automated Pizza Kitchen (APK) design on behalf of BSC. "Having worked with Commercial Automation through the product development life-cycle, I have witnessed CA’s experience, knowledge, and dedication. Their attention to detail, creative problem solving, and willingness to go the extra mile have allowed Basil Street to launch a revolutionary, patented, solution that is disrupting automated retail and the global pizza industry," says Deglin Kenealy, CEO, Basil Street Cafe. The company also has other patents pending, including one for a revolutionary three-heat speed oven.
"We are currently the only group to receive full regulatory compliance approval with UL and NSF national standards for automated cook vending solutions," says Klemp. These certifications ensure that what has been built is safe and sanitary, which provides a competitive advantage for CA's clients. Also, CA has recently transitioned its kiosk manufacturing business model to a global contract manufacturing model to increase solution delivery uniformity, savings, and scalability. The company has built the infrastructure and partnered with world-class companies to include frictionless supply chain, rapid kiosk installation, menu development, food manufacturing, inventory management, technical support, and customer service.
In another instance, CA was engaged by WellMation, a US-based pharmacy distributor and retailer, to evaluate their direct-to-consumer prescription medication dispensing machine. After evaluating the existing intellectual property and business model, CA realized the existence of a much broader opportunity. In addition to making significant improvements in the hardware design, CA built pharmacy and cannabis integrations into the software. This advanced kiosk can dispense hundreds of SKUs, print and label medication containers, verify consumer IDs, and connect patients with pharmacists via video chat - all in a compact, highly secure environment, enabling WellMation to have one of the first self-service kiosks in the cannabis trade. The client was quite pleased with the outcome. "CA has been a pivotal part of bringing our age-restricted, regulated product delivery vision to life. Replacing humans is not the goal, instead, we aim to reduce business risk from non-compliance actions. Pulling the compliance burden away from the staff and placing it onto a robotic system just makes sense to me," said Ryan Flynn, Head of Product Development at WellMation.
A Roadmap that Focuses on the Evolving Needs of Retail Automation
CA's drive toward innovation is primarily focused on investing in talented, experienced team members who have a depth of knowledge and collaborative mindset. Every team member brings deep experience around developing robotic self-service retail kiosk solutions in their fields of engineering, manufacturing, software development, field operations, marketing, and supply chain management. For example, CA's engineering leaders have developed an innovative approach to designing for manufacturing and assembly (DFM & DFA) to reduce production costs and increase quality. They have also collaborated with partners to develop patented kiosks and kiosk components that can be utilized in future solutions.
CA's success at interpreting ideas and the creativeness of its solutions will continue to keep them positioned as a retail automation leader. "We are a great choice for those not only looking to improve their current solutions, but also researching new ways to enhance their omni-channel offerings, or those looking to create new disruptive solutions in the self-service interactive retailing space. We will make your great ideas work in the real world," informs Klemp.
CA has grown over 300 percent since opening its doors. "Our growth has been strategic. We have been spending time to determine how to grow in a way that allows us to assist more companies in this rapidly growing space of robotic retail automation," mentions Klemp. At the same time, on the IT front, CA's team continues to improve its powerful, reliable robotic kiosk management system. The team is equally focused on driving profitability for clients. "Our expertise in retail merchandising is unrivalled— integration of the best merchandising and inventory management tools, combined with people who know how to utilize them is critical for our clients' success," concludes Klemp.