Kiosks and Modular Construction: The Hidden Benefits
July 19, 2017
One question many potential kiosk deployers ask is whether they should invest in a custom unit uniquely designed and manufactured for them, or else start with a modular kiosk (that is, a standard, module-based product out of the manufacturer’s catalog) and tweak it based on the options list.
This post describes the benefits of each approach and why for most cases a modular kiosk can provide a winning combination of reliability, affordability and a hedge against obsolescence.
The appeal of custom
The appeal of custom is understandably strong for many companies. By working with a kiosk provider’s design and engineering staff, executives can request and receive virtually any look and feel. Moreover, they can order from a range of options for functionality without concern whether a standard cabinet can accommodate them. Biometrics? No problem. Height adjustment? Can do. Want to include special sanitizing technology? Our engineers will get right back to you.
That kind of approach may be exactly what some projects require, and those projects are among the favorites for designers and engineers in any kind of manufacturing firm.
Ultimately, though, only a minority of projects truly mandate a custom approach. Most can succeed very well when a deployer talks to a representative, describes the needs and makes decisions on how best to configure the recommended kiosk
Essence of modular
We are surrounded by modular products—that is, single products that comprise distinct, pre-assembled components. The vehicle you drive may have rolled off one assembly line, but preceding it were dozens more where each of the vehicle’s modular components was built. Seats may have been constructed in one city. Dashboards and transmissions, in another. At the climactic event, all of them are ready in the proper place at the proper time to be bolted onto the car exactly where they need to be. Henry Ford gets credit for mass assembly, but there could be no mass assembly without modularity.
…and chances are it wouldn’t be because there was anything wrong with the kiosk, but it would be because they brought a Ferrari to a monster truck rally. [Frank Olea, CEO, Olea Kiosks]
The same can be true of kiosks. Olea Kiosks, for example, offers several standardized models that can be easily adapted for a variety of projects. Some, like the company’s Metropolis model, were designed to be a versatile solution for nearly any industry. Others, like its California model, are versatile as well but were designed with a focus on regulatory compliance for ADA, HIPAA, and EMV. In any case, however, there is a kiosk with certain general use-cases in mind, able to be modified owing to its modularity. (The common root words in that sentence are no coincidence.)
Speed. It can take up to 12 weeks in a typical custom project to meet with the client stakeholders, develop concept drawings, refine them, create engineering drawings and build a prototype. Then, the prototype must be tested and undergo any necessary modifications before the unit is ready for mass production.
With modular kiosks, a manufacturer like Olea needs only the time it takes—if any—to acquire any out-of-stock components before it can begin building. That state of readiness potentially takes lead-time down to a couple of weeks.
Price. The more of any one thing there is, the less costly it will be. Olea is able to anticipate demand for certain modules for its standard kiosks with great accuracy, allowing it to earn volume discounts from their providers.
Consistency. Working with modular components lets manufacturers like Olea travel in time, enabling it to recreate a kiosk for a client who may have ordered the first one years ago. The new kiosks will match the previous ones virtually completely.
Quality. Practice makes perfect. Manufacturing benefits from the same repetition. The team gets to know the intricacies of each module, how to make them fit best, what the vulnerabilities are and how to work or engineer around them. There’s a reason that conventional wisdom says never to buy the first year of a new model of a car.
Obsolescence. Love means never having to say there are no replacements parts. In the context of modular construction, if a particular part cannot be replaced exactly, the design and engineering set-up will make the accommodation of a newer replacement part a snap. That means less downtime and repairs that aren’t nearly so costly to complete.
Keeping maintenance in mind
Although a kiosk manufacturer typically tries to consider every circumstance that may occur, some things just can’t be predicted. Still, designing a kiosk with an eye to modularity can help avoid costly surprises.
Modular design also includes planning for any maintenance that may be needed. Consider a case, for example, where a monitor fails on a seven-year-old kiosk that is otherwise functioning perfectly. Chances are that particular model of monitor will no longer be available, but a flexible design will allow for quick replacement with a current model. So rather than having to scrap an otherwise perfectly good kiosk with a new one, you simply replace it with an equivalent model (module).
And sometimes working with a client to help them get the best return on their investment includes telling that client their ideas for a kiosk won’t accomplish their goals and they’d be better off with a simpler, more realistic design. Those are the times where it may be best for a kiosk manufacturer to be honest with a client even if it works against their own short-term interests.
“If we built a project that wasn’t the best fit for a customer’s needs, when that failed they’d be out there telling everyone how horrible the kiosks were,” said Olea CEO Frank Olea.
“And chances are it wouldn’t be because there was anything wrong with the kiosk, but it would be because they brought a Ferrari to a monster truck rally,” he said. “Maybe we care a little too much and we’ve talked ourselves out of projects, but at the end of the day we owe the industry to do our best and put products out there that are going to be successful.”
Even if a kiosk deployer chooses to go with a custom design instead of a vendor’s standard offerings, it pays to keep modularity top-of-mind to accommodate changing needs.
For example, a deployer might want to design a kiosk to accept bill payments but will omit a receipt printer to save money. A modular design would allow for the easy addition of a printer with a minimum of effort if they change their mind.
Or regulatory changes might call for changes in peripherals by a certain date, but the deployer wants to get their network deployed now and make those additional changes later. Many kiosk manufacturers offer brackets and add-on kits to accommodate those types of changes.
And sometimes the peripheral that needs to be added doesn’t fit with the existing kiosk design, but the deployer wants to avoid having to replace the entire unit. That’s where the talent of a manufacturer’s design team can shine.
In the case of a thin kiosk, for example, replacing a flat access door with a “bubble” door may allow for the incorporation of an additional component without having to replace the enclosure. Designing that door with a lift-off hinge allows for a quick swap.
Or suppose a deployer wants to add a second digital screen to a project at a minimum of cost. A freestanding mount to support that can be added to the project with a minimum of disruption.
Planning with modularity in mind can make it easier to deal with unforeseen changes without the expense of replacing the entire kiosk.