Cashmaster International – Exclusive Interview – Neil Hunter speaks to The Grocery Trader

An exhibitor at the recent Retail Business Technology Expo, Cashmaster International, the independent cash management solutions company, was established by Neil Hunter in Scotland in 1977 and has grown into a global brand, supplying some of the world’s largest blue chip companies with innovative money counting solutions. Cashmaster serves over 100,000 customers worldwide, from single store operations to some of the largest multinationals. Cashmaster is a family-owned company, with its headquarters and manufacturing facility in the UK and sales offices throughout Europe and the US, supported by distributors around the world.

Cashmaster’s success is built on a belief that every individual’s contribution is valued and successfully offers a global perspective with local expertise, and remains focused on its customers. The high profile client list contains many of the world’s leading blue chip companies from many sectors including retail, fast food and banking. Neil Hunter, founder and CEO of Cashmaster International, spoke to The Grocery Trader.

The Grocery Trader – Neil, first of all, what does your role as CEO involve these days? Do you still get personally involved in developing cash management solutions for individual customers?

These days I lead our general management, including the HR bit, and get involved with the back office stuff when necessary. I still have some involvement with customers but that side tends to be looked after day to day by the relevant people. I have a great team supporting me – it’s very democratic.

GT – Who else is in the current Cashmaster management team?

On the cash counting equipment side, the key people are Bill Hamilton, our technical director, Douglas Ross, our CFO, Duncan McPhail, our development director, Douglas Reid our production director, Jonathan McIntosh our marketing manager, Helen Brannan, our Business Development Manager who manages the US side, David Caird, our company secretary who looks after our American liaison and our European Distributors and my wife Maureen, our Direct Marketing Director who looks after our inhouse telesales including the UK, Germany, Italy, Poland and France.

GT – How long have you personally been involved in designing and manufacturing cash counting equipment?

In the early stages Cashmaster was basically me with a soldering iron, doing everything. Early on we were involved in many weighing projects for other industries, including the NHS and the nuclear industry. One particular project was a postage scale for Pitney Bowes in the US.

GT – What changes have you seen over the years?

The technology has come on by leaps and bounds: systems architecture has advanced and processors are now much more powerful. The early kit counted cash, and that was all: now cash counters count cash, record non-cash items and operate in different modes to fit customers’ working processes, and integration with clients’ back office systems is increasingly the norm.

GT – From your viewpoint, do you think we’re any closer now to the end of cash?

No, I don’t – people still like cash. The banks here have been talking for years about the death of cash, but the hard fact is, cash is more convenient than plastic for most people and in many countries it’s unlikely to be replaced.

GT – How big a problem are cash loss and shrinkage in retail these days?

Cash loss and shrinkage are a huge problem, involving billions of pounds of losses. Part of the difficulty is, while most in-house POS systems take a record of transactions this is a figure that is entered in the system but not achieved with actual cash. The discrepancies vary from sector to sector, and can be quite large at times. It’s a big enough problem for the major retailers to have specific loss prevention departments.

GT – What can be done to prevent these losses?

The answer is simple: use cash counting machinery. We’ve developed systems that are separate to the POS system, and track cash going through the till. Cashmaster’s systems identify individual till users, so store managers can quickly see losses and gains. Accidents happen and people get short changed, but with this technology you can track the situation over time, and good reporting allows changes to be made to stores’ processes. These tools show how efficient the changes are, and are a real winner.

GT – What sets Cashmaster apart from other companies in the cash management industry?

We don’t just sell cash counters. We like to deal with clients one to one, understand their business and have long term relationships with trust on both sides, more akin to a consultancy.

GT – Where is your global HQ? Which other countries do you operate in?

We’re based in Fife, Scotland and have branch offices in France, Italy, Poland, Germany and both coasts of the US, and distributors throughout the world. We’re growing all the time, making inroads into new sectors and new geographical areas.

GT – Which industry sectors do you sell your products to?

We supply all retail sectors – supermarkets and general retail, and the banking sector, plus a host of other outlets taking cash, including fast food outlets, pubs, National Trust locations, schools, churches, prisons, funeral directors and recently Buckingham Palace and Wimbledon.

GT – As a company, how are you organised to meet retailers’ needs for money counting solutions? Do you sell to retailers direct or through distributors?

We supply major customers through our national account managers. We supply other customers through telesales and distributors.

GT – Can you talk us through the machines in your current range, and how they are used?

Our machines can be configured for clients’ different processes, from spot checks on the shop floor with our entry-level machines to the top of the range machines for the back office.

In terms of specific models, the Sigma 170 is designed for use with single tills. It assists in any business that handles cash, by providing an invaluable, easy to use tool, and saves time and money and improves accountability. You can cash up, prepare floats, prepare banking and conduct instant checks and audits in a fraction of the normal time. The Omega 230 is ideal for customers needing the flexibility to quickly open or close tills according to customer demand. It offers higher flexibility, particularly in processing non-cash items and pro-active management of cash on the shop floor. It allows retailers to monitor till discrepancies and speed up random till checks throughout the day. The Alpha 305 is the ultimate cash management solution. Fully customisable, it offers businesses the ability to specify exactly how they want to count and reconcile their cash. More than a cash counting machine, it’s a customised cash management solution designed around your cash counting and reconciliation needs. Able to be fully integrated with back office networks, it will increase operational efficiency, reduce cash shrinkage and reconcile takings from multiple tills with ease.

GT – Which of your machines would a supermarket have? How many machines would a store with 30 lanes need? Who would use them?

In general a supermarket would have the Omega 230 or Alpha 305. A large store can run with one machine if required, or have two or three. The people using the machines tend to be the cashiers.

GT – How do your machines work?

Our machines weigh currency to accurately calculate its monetary value, using some of the world’s most advanced digitised electronics. Highly accurate electronic measuring devices and patented algorithms are at the heart of every Cashmaster machine. In simple terms the process involves converting the denomination weight of money to an analogue voltage, which is then measured, allowing the actual value of the cash to be calculated and displayed clearly to the user.

GT – How quickly can your machines count coins?

Typically, a standard cash drawer with 800 coins in four denominations can be counted in approximately 8 seconds using a Cashmaster with Till Cups, inserts placed in the coin section of standard cash drawers. Cashmaster Till Cups enable quick and easy coin counting, without directly handling coins. We offer Till Cups to fit all major till drawer models.

GT – Why use a Cashmaster machine? What are the benefits?

Quite simply, the Cashmaster gets it right and ensures accuracy. Not only is it quicker, it eliminates the possibility of human frailty and error thorough fatigue or notes sticking together. Where you might need a second or third count, working manually, Cashmaster gives the right answer first time. Cashmaster machines can count the contents of a till, both coins and notes, in under 60 seconds, compared to the time it takes counting manually. This major reduction in labour time equals less hours in the cash office, and better customer service. At the same time security is significantly enhanced, with cash not simply being taken in and out.

GT – What sets your products apart?

We take great pride in how we build our products. They are precision manufactured by experts who value quality and reliability right here in the UK at our company HQ. We spend time getting our designs right and reducing the number of connections in the machine. We’ve designed our load cells with over-capacity, and use higher spec components. The end result is that some customers still use Cashmaster equipment originally purchased over 15 years ago.

GT – How much space do your products take up?

Our machines have the same footprint as a desktop business phone.

GT – Can your machines offer printouts, or electronic reporting to a remote location?

Yes, they do. Clients generally don’t have much space. They also like to have a printout at the end of the session for smoother cash reconciliation, so we have developed integrated printers with no cables. Our machines are capable of connectivity with serial interfaces, USB, Ethernet or wireless.

GT – Do you supply printers?

We offer two printers which we make ourselves, the Zeta Zero and the CP3. The new and innovative Zeta Zero Integrated printer allows you to make optimal use of your Cashmaster, making cash counting and reconciliation even easier. Its all in one footprint means there’s no need for extra space. It is portable and needs no cables, offering intuitive and fast connection, and higher reliability. The Cashmaster inkless printer is small and light. Connection is simple: all your staff need do is plug it in, press the print button and watch a printout of the till count appear in seconds.

We have also made our Cashmaster machines compatible with other POS printers: if you have a POS type serial printer, you can configure the Cashmaster to it.

GT – Can your machines detect forgeries, or foreign coins?

Our cash counters aren’t forgery detectors, but we offer specific products to do that. Our RBF4 Multi-Scan Fake Note Detector is a highly intelligent counterfeit note detector, detecting forged notes by five criteria checks. Compatible with Euro currency, it implements inspection checks on the existence and location of magnetic marks, infrared ink, security thread and length of note.

GT – How long does the fake note detector take to do its job?

The Multi-Scan authenticates notes in under 0.2 seconds. It’s not only incredibly fast but also extremely versatile, with audio feedback, a large, easy to read LED display and simple control buttons.

GT – Do you offer your machines in different operating languages?

Yes, the standard Cashmaster has various default languages, for instance in Switzerland it can work in French and German. The key benefit to clients in countries such as Switzerland where more than one currency is frequently passing through client’s hands is that the Cashmaster can count various currencies simultaneously.

GT – How easy are your machines to re-programme as new coins and notes come in?

As coins change there are various ways to update Cashmaster which are simple procedures to carry out – uploads via SD card, like you’d use in a camera, or via the customer’s central server or web services. Our machines can be set up to check for updates.

GT – How easy are your machines to use?

They’re pretty straightforward – as accuracy improves, all employees count at the same pace regardless of experience.

GT – Do you provide staff training?

Yes we do. Before we roll out across their stores, most large customers come to us to have their area managers trained, and then they train the trainers. We also have a technical help line.

GT – Can you tell us about the different retailers and other companies that use your machines?

How long do you have? As the introduction says, we have many blue chip clients and high street retailers, who are all equally important to us.

GT – Do you publish case studies about your machines?

Yes we do – see the example below.

GT – How do you support your customers?

When clients require equipment to count cash, the first step for us is to understand which of our products would best suit their needs, which also presents an opportunity for them to review their processes. From our side we come up with the options and look at the best fit. It’s not about selling one machine or the other. Clients know their own requirements, but we have a lot to offer back. We also look beyond their immediate needs, at the position a year or two ahead, and support them in their planning.

GT – How flexible are your solutions? How do you handle special requests from customers?

We always like to fit the client to the need, with bespoke solutions for individual customers. The development process has been quite lengthy – one client has one mode of operation, others have eight, each with different screens, printouts and communications protocols. We have turned the development on its head and rewrote the software. So the whole unit is now XML-based, and development takes inside a week, not several months as before. We recently used our new system to transform a US customer’s old machines into new ones with new software in 48 hours.

We call this the”soft machine” approach – if the client wants change, 95% of applications are software based and can be modified easily. We’ve gone from the hardwired days to today’s soft coded era: the soft part is the client’s configurations – it’s easy and quick for ourselves or indeed the client to carry out updates.

GT – How long do you take to supply machines?

In early 2008, we changed our production layout. Lead times then were five to six weeks. Now, depending on our workload we can supply in under two weeks, or even the same day. From the start of a machine on line to finished goods going into the warehouse takes 40 minutes.

GT – Who do people need to speak to at Cashmaster International if they want to know more about your machines?

People should call our sales and marketing department. What happens next depends on the global region, sector and the client: we respond to all enquiries by phone or email.

GT – Do you offer your machines on a free trial?

Yes organizations in the UK can have a 14 day, no obligation free trial. Free trials are also available in Germany, Italy and Poland.

GT – You exhibited at the Recent Retail Business Technology Expo. How was the show for you?

It was good for us. We demonstrated our full product range. We’ll be maintaining our profile at similar shows in the future.

GT – What factors are affecting demand for your machines?

The recession has been a major factor, and made cash counting even more important, tying in with the rise of interest in cash loss prevention. Banks here in the UK talk about the decline in cash, but our experience around the world is that it is more and more in use.

GT – Where do you see Cashmaster International going in the next five years?

I see us continuing to expand within existing markets and developing many more new markets within new countries, South America is a particularly strong opportunity. In short, I can’t see anything but growth!

Cashmaster International

Tel: 01383 416098

www.cashmaster.com