Everyone is used to the fact that most IT solutions come to us from the West, and we have only a few software companies. And even those already sometimes become foreign – as, for example, the re-registered Kaspersky Lab in Switzerland. However, there are also companies in Russia that create modern technologies from A to Z. And not just modern, but really unique ones, which have no analogues even among the world’s transnational corporations. I mean, this is hardware, software, and a ready-made working service – and no import substitution! Meet RusHOLTS.
The company’s office and production are located in St. Petersburg. RusHOLTS was founded by a former military engineer-physicist Alexander Kuzmin. Once he developed systems to protect ships and submarines from enemy detection. And in the nineties, when the Soviet research institutes collapsed, he took up the business of supplying related products to gas stations. It was the American HOLTS brand car cosmetics, and the name was inherited from it.
Alexander Kuzmin is not only a leading expert on the non-fuel filling station business in Russia. But also a true evangelist of innovations and a modern approach to the formation of a non-fuel filling station business. But most importantly, Kuzmin, due to the specifics of his technologies, is one of the coolest COFFEE specialists in Russia!
Alexander is the author of several inventions, as well as hundreds of articles and comments in leading business and industry media like Kommersant or RBC. The latest materials are available on the personal website kuzminblog.ru, as well as in the author’s column for Forbes.
10 years ago, supplies of coffee and automatic coffee machines for its preparation were added to auto chemicals and accessories. And this opened up truly bottomless opportunities for business development, not only within the framework of working with gas stations, but also in a much wider market. And then, quite logically, the need arose for a two-way remote monitoring system for coffee machines. And then it turned out that there are no such solutions at all. Not only on the Russian market, but also on a global scale. The world’s top corporations do not have them either. And then the company of Alexander Kuzmin made something really unique and inimitable …
The main goal of the RusHOLTS high-tech complex is ultimately a satisfied consumer. How to calculate it, express it in numbers, in addition to income? Quite simply – eight out of ten customers should rate the coffee as “unambiguously tasty”. And then the coffee part of the business will work extremely successfully.
Rather, there is also “The Grid”. It was created by the British Scott Martin, who developed his own network of Costa Express vending machines, which he sold to Costa Coffee in 2011 for 60 million pounds. Costa Coffee, in turn, was sold to Coca-Cola in 2019 for $ 5,1 billion.Now this system is used by a multinational corporation exclusively for its own needs.
A full-fledged “store simulator at a gas station” was organized right in the RusHOLTS office at 19 Moskovskoye Highway (St. Petersburg). So it is convenient for potential customers to show their products in practice, and to test their own developments.
And then there was nothing at all, everything had to be done from scratch. Today, automaton manufacturers, of course, equip some models with telemetry modules. But those, as a rule, only collect statistics and send it to a remote cloud server. And it’s all.
And the market demanded more. Much more! And then RusHOLTS developed the coffee business management system BMS Coffee Control on its own. And the British made The Grid in parallel around the same years. In general, the most important thing here is not so much to write software and design hardware, but to correctly set the technical task for the developers. That is, to understand the tasks that must be solved, and the methods by which they will be solved.
In this sense, the approaches of Costa Express and RusHOLTS are similar: both The Grid and BMS were created primarily for themselves, based on the needs of their own business, by in-house programmers. Therefore, it was possible to work out hypotheses for a long time and thoroughly in practice and polish all sorts of little things. If the solution had been created by a third-party software company, this would not have been possible. The only difference is that The Grid, as part of the Costa Express, was immediately focused on selling to an investor. And BMS from RusHOLTS was made for their own tasks and only later they realized that many people really need such a solution.
BMS version 4.0 is currently relevant. What can she do?
Firstly, it is control not only of the coffee machine, but of the entire coffee machine as a whole. After all, it also includes a refrigerator with milk, and external monitors with constantly broadcast video content, and a cup dispenser, and a tank with clean water, and a waste tank. If at least one of this is not in order (there is no milk, glasses, water, or the waste tank is full), then coffee sales immediately stop, and the business simply ceases to generate income.
An example of a BMS notification that comes to the smartphones of the administrator and owner-owner of the coffee zone if necessary to take any action. In this case, you should promptly replace the water bottle.
And since the coffee zone is usually located on an object where the staff has a completely different specialization and does not really understand anything about the arrangement of all this coffee machinery (gas station, grocery store, car wash or bank branch), no one will even pay attention to it.
And BMS Coffee Control sends notifications in advance to smartphones of staff and responsible persons (as well as the owner-owner of the outlet!) That the cups need to be put!
And if after that they still did not put them, then the dispatcher from the “flight control center”, where data from all connected automatic coffee boxes (Russia + 8 countries) are collected in real time, will call the object by voice and control what needs to be done.
Two operators are present in the RusHOLTS technical support center around the clock. Each workstation is equipped with a pair of monitors that complement six 40-inch shared screens. If necessary, the operators are assisted by an experienced mechanic who is well versed in all the coffee machines supplied by RusHOLTS. Such an employee must be present at every shift.
Secondly, it is deep integration into the coffee machine itself – so deep that RusHOLTS became the only company in the world that received the rights to distribute two brands of coffee super-automatic machines at once – WMF and Schaerer, belonging to the single industrial group SEB. Only because BMS Coffee Control is used in both brands of machines and is officially approved by the manufacturer.
In coffee complexes “RusHOLTS” you can control even such a trifle as the color of the illumination of the coffee zone. And the method of demonstrating it – for example, static or flickering.
This allows not only to collect analytics about the operation of the machine, but also to implement a number of additional functions. For example, there is a “personal barista in your smartphone” API. And this function has already been implemented in the Gazpromneft mobile application – the client sets up the coffee recipe directly on his smartphone, then, when he arrives at the gas station, scans the QR code on the vending machine display. And please: you are stronger, you have more milk, and you have a latte with doubled tender milk froth.
To drive sales even better, the Coffee from a Star option can be added to the coffee machine mobile app. That is, the user will choose from a list like “Coffee from Shnurov”, “Coffee from Kirkorov” and so on according to a recipe that was personally approved by Sergey Shnurov, Philip Kirkorov or even V.V. Putin. Such an opportunity is incorporated in the RusHOLTS software – the client would have a desire to bring the idea to life.
However, most of the additional functions are aimed at business owners, since they solve specific problems associated with the unscrupulousness of staff.
This is how the system menu of the coffee machine looks like with the ability to change the coffee recipe.
For example, without BMS Coffee Control, up to 30% of coffee at gas stations was sold “to the left”. And in order to hide the lack of raw materials in the machines, they found master passwords on the Internet and reprogrammed the machines in order to pour more water and pour less grains, less milk and more foam, etc. It seems to the crook that, they say, what’s the difference, it will still be hot and sweet.
But the problem is that the knocked-down settings of the coffee machine greatly spoil the taste of coffee: it is important to have a verified combination of proportions, temperature, etc., moreover, optimized for a specific mixture of beans from a particular supplier. If you change them, then one cup of bad coffee means that the client will stop buying it once and for all in the entire network of gas stations, shops, etc. Not only will he stop trusting the brand himself, he will also dissuade friends and acquaintances from buying the drink. Word of mouth works best, and the business here is that you buy coffee over and over again every time you visit the outlet! In the end, it was coffee that remained the last legal brain stimulant: you can drink it while driving, and the Ministry of Health does not warn you on the pack.
To guarantee a certain taste, RusHOLTS not only selects the necessary parameters for the coffee machine, but is also responsible for the “foundation” – without intermediaries, it supplies coffee from Brazil. Each pack has a QR code with a link to the page with the most detailed “passport” of this variety.
For connoisseurs, the link from the QR code even provides a detailed diagram of the roasting of a specific batch. Yes, exactly the one from where the coffee in the package in the photo above is taken from.
BMS Coffee Control simply rolls back the settings to the default on any attempt to change. That is, to find a master password for a coffee machine on the Internet (and they exist without fail, because the life cycle of such equipment is from 10 years, and during this time there is a great risk of losing ordinary unique passwords) and changing the recipe is now impossible. The very fact of changing the recipe is logged, and the “correct” settings are immediately loaded from the server, which does not allow any manipulations in order to sell coffee “to the left”.
Also in Russia, deception schemes were widespread among gas station personnel, in which an employee colluded with a service engineer and summoned him when unnecessary. The service engineer did not come, but all the paperwork was drawn up as for leaving. As a result, the cost of the call (from 4 rubles) was divided between the accomplices. Now the dispatcher even sees the contents of the display of each vending machine in real time. And any breakdown is monitored by RusHOLTS ‘own service engineer on duty at each shift. That is why there are no false calls at all, and 000% of all technical problems are solved remotely: it is enough to call “Aunt Masha” on the spot and say: “Your milk pipe is pinched there, correct it”.
But the most important thing is that all this is combined into a full-fledged ERP system. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. It is a business process management software that integrates and manages finance, supply chain, operations, reporting.
In fact, the new version of WMF Coffee Connect 4.0 will be a shortened version of BMS Coffee Control.
From a hardware point of view, BMS is built on two-way monitoring modules and a cloud-based online platform with a dispatch center. The latter “RusHOLTS” either leases out in fact according to the PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) model, or deploys it at the client’s site, acting as a system integrator. This, by the way, is also an interesting nuance: many customers prefer local deployment at home, because their CIOs, who are responsible for the implementation of new IT solutions, are afraid to be unclaimed. But they argue their position, of course, with security: they say, suddenly our data will end up with third parties, and suddenly the cloud “falls” and we can do nothing but wait – and so on. Therefore, RusHOLTS meets the wishes and implements both PaaS and a local solution.
Control modules are based on Atmel 328P industrial microcontrollers. Depending on the model of the coffee machine, the corresponding software is loaded into them. The cases are printed on a 3D printer: stamping in this case is more expensive, since the production is small-scale. And a specific version of the case is produced in only a few hundred copies for a specific implementation: everyone has different coffee machines, and each project uses a different method of communication – somewhere a Wi-Fi module, somewhere a 3G / GSM modem, somewhere just Ethernet. A 64 Kbps channel is enough, through which a secure VPN connection rises. In case of a temporary “drop” of the channel, the logs are written to the internal memory, after the connection is restored they are sent to the server.
The photo shows a client control module with connectors for connecting a wired Internet. And also a USB port where you can install a 3G modem, Wi-Fi adapter and other equipment.
The sensors are connected using industrial screw 5-pin connectors, and the coffee machine itself is connected with a service USB cable, that is, its hardware is not modified, we are talking about deep software integration.
Here the question of guarantee is not without interest: there is still interference in the design. Since RusHOLTS is a distributor of machines, it carries out all types of guarantees, having its own service department, where more than 100 employees already work.
RusHOLTS independently develops and assembles modules for remote control of coffee machines at its own small-scale production.
But these are all technical details. And what does business get from all these innovations? And solutions from BMS Coffee Control make it possible for businesses to invest about 600-700 thousand rubles in a ready-made coffee zone (RusHOLTS supplies them under the Vortex Coffee brand). Such a fully automated coffee zone takes up only two square meters of space, requires only an electrical outlet and automatically earns additional money from human traffic – be it a gas station, a store, a newsstand at a train station, or even a bank branch. In the latter case, it is more of a loyalty tool: in the USA, some banks are already introducing such solutions in order to attract visitors to their place, and while a satisfied customer is drinking coffee, he can additionally sell some service.
One example of stimulating additional sales with the help of RusHOLTS coffee machines. When ordering coffee, the client receives a tangible discount-bonus for another product. For example, as in the photo – the opportunity to buy an energy drink 50% cheaper. Agree, it is difficult to refuse such a tempting offer!
If the complex with a coffee machine is equipped with one or two screens, the gas station has the opportunity to earn by selling advertising. Namely – playing advertising videos. At the same time, you can notify visitors about your own news, promotions and other information. The function control interface is as simple as possible and is available in a smartphone version.
The economy of an automatic coffee zone is approximately the following: according to statistics, on average, every tenth visitor to a service point takes coffee. The prime cost of a portion of coffee is 30 rubles (we are talking about high-quality grain coffee, not powder from a vending machine). At retail, this portion is sold for 100 rubles (although at gas stations – 150 and more). With traffic of 1 visitors per day, 000 cups of coffee will be sold, 100 rubles in profit from each – 70x100x30 = 70 thousand rubles in profit per month (before taxes). That is, the investment pays off with such traffic in a few months.
Also, BMS Coffee Control became the basis for the development of similar systems for other industries, which were called BMS Cloud. After all, if there is a ready-made controller and an ERP-system, then you can hook up other sensors to it – and the Internet of Things is ready for almost any other area.
In particular, there is EasyWC, a solution for monitoring the cleanliness of public toilets. The system’s sensors monitor the presence of toilet paper, soap, napkins and even control the filling of the trash can!
The RusHOLTS office has a showroom with stands of various company developments. However, there is nothing easier than seeing EasyWC work live. The system is implemented in all toilets of the head office of St. Petersburg RusHOLTS.
Moreover, even feedback from visitors has been implemented: it is enough to scan the QR code on the wall with your smartphone and you can inform the management of the facility about the problems. For the majority of visitors to gas stations, a clean toilet is more important than a good store and cafe, but hundreds of companies are trying to deal with shops, and only RusHOLTS is trying to clean toilets at gas stations.
Or, for example, a system for monitoring grill-ovens-turbo-ovens, in which baked goods are prepared from frozen raw materials at HoReCa facilities (did you know that in 90% of all these bakeries, everything “just baked” is actually made at the factory?) … Professional oven programs are also designed for semi-finished products from a specific type of flour and with a specific sugar content. Otherwise, the baked goods will either not bake or burn. And here you can remotely change these programs depending on the raw materials used (the supplier of cheesecakes has changed – once, program number 8 has been updated throughout the network, new sausages in the dough – well, we are changing program 14, not hoping that field employees will do it right, from which you want to open the door, put the freeze on, press the button for a specific dish, be it pizza, chicken or French fries).
The MerryChef eikon e2s turbo oven costs € 7. Cooking, for example, chicken breast or sausages takes just 000-1 minutes. No special skills and supervision by the gas station personnel is required.
By the way, about the sausages! For them, RusHOLTS also has a special Grill Tracker solution based on machine vision.
Above the rotary grill, in which assorted hot dogs are usually cooked, there is a camera that analyzes which sausage was put on the grill how long ago, how ready it is and which of the lying sausages should be sold first – after all, they cannot be kept too long, they will dry out and will be tasteless.
Grill Tracker even knows how to determine if sausages are actually laid out in front of it. If a knife or other object falls on the grill surface, this will not interfere with the correct operation of the system. The “observer” will simply ignore the intruder.
Moreover, the computer even helps to arrange the sausages BEAUTIFULLY, which allows you to sell them in larger quantities, as they look more appetizing.
Further more. A whole ERP system for managing a retail store has been created: from the selection of suppliers to the control of inventory balances and merchandising. The machine vision system analyzes images from points of sale for compliance with planograms. There can be two sources of the picture: either it is shooting on a smartphone with a preinstalled special application (either a merchandiser or a point employee takes it every day), or the image is taken from surveillance cameras several times a day. There are no direct analogs to this solution in the world either, the Russian RusHOLTS has it.
The Avtozakaz system analyzes sales, evaluates balances and automatically generates an order for gas stations on a daily basis. The manager receives a notification about the finished list, after which he confirms it or makes changes.
Why is there just a store – solutions are being implemented for entire hypermarkets, taking into account their specifics. Each “hyper” usually has its own production of cookery and semi-finished products. And in any such production there is fatty waste that is discharged into the sewer. So, they can’t just be drained uncontrollably: the fine for exceeding the concentration of fats in wastewater for organizations reaches 700 thousand rubles. Therefore, special sensors are installed, and the system warns in advance that the situation may get out of control. In the Lenta hypermarket, where this solution is implemented, electricity meters, temperature and moisture sensors are connected to the platform.
The system is used in a similar way in food warehouses: temperature and humidity sensors monitor compliance with food storage conditions. If something goes wrong, the responsible specialist receives a notification or a call from the dispatcher. Also, the work of lighting devices, the opening and closing of doors, the work of CCTV cameras and other equipment are monitored. The use of BMS in a warehouse allows you to forget about the deterioration of products due to non-compliance with storage conditions, as well as save electricity.
A huge plus of RusHOLTS is that the company uses its solutions in practice in its own business of supplying non-fuel goods to gas stations. Therefore, RusHOLTS does not wait for feedback from customers, but independently checks, supplements and improves its developments in “combat conditions”. Thus, the BMS system is also used at RusHOLTS ‘own huge warehouse with an area of about 13 sq. M.
You can read more about the BMS Coffee Control solution here. Here is all the information on ready-made Vortex Coffee coffee machines. And the owner of RusHOLTS, Alexander Kuzmin, by the way, willingly communicates with everyone by e-mail AlexCoffee@rusholts.ru. You can even arrange an excursion to the RusHOLTS showroom in St. Petersburg, where all the company’s developments are presented. There it will be possible to drink the right high-quality coffee, see and touch the autonomous coffee-boxes with remote control, prepare a coffee drink according to your own recipe through the mobile application, and get acquainted with the robot barista.
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