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How to innovate during a pandemic?

Contactless shopping with the K-BOX

As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic a number of restrictions arose for  retailers, restaurants  and canteens. Regulations included  social distancing and limiting the number of customers in a shop. The challenges could not be any bigger, but is there the  potential for innovation in these times?

The first prototype of the K-BOX, which took 90 days to develop, was presented at the INTERNORGA 2019 trade fair.The K-BOX is a cashless, self-service unit that can provide customers with hot and cold food & beverages and convenience products, 24 hours a day.

During these early stages it was unclear what the future held for the K-BOX, and in March 2020 K-BOX was ready at the right time; allowing even refrigerated goods to be constantly ready whilst reducing physical contact.

The K-BOX is a joint venture project between REHAU, KESSEBÖHMER and start-up GLEEBEES. "The  collaboration is the perfect symbiosis of innovative entrepreneurial spirit, technological know-how, retail experience and market proximity of KESSEBÖHMER paired with the necessary flexibility and digitalisation competence of a start-up”, Peter Michels, REHAU Innovation Manager Industrial Solutions, sums up.

But what exactly makes the K-BOX so special? What distinguishes it from other self-service machines?

The showcase system identifies the user by means of an NFC card such as a credit card or Apple Pay.With the help of sensitive sensors, it then recognises which products, in what quantity, the user removes from the shelf, or if they put them back. After completing the purchase the system sends a digital invoice to the customer. The sensor system is based on weight recognition, and the billing system was developed in record speed by REHAU New Ventures, the unit for digitalisation, in cooperation with the Industrial Solutions Division. 

Nine modules were developed, enabling the distribution of a wide variety of food products. For example, cooling, warming and room-hot modules can be combined with coffee, tea and soup modules and supplemented with waste disposal and heating options. The K-BOX has to be unlock via NFC-enabled card (credit card, Apple Pay) and the customer removes the desired products.

To guarantee maximum flexibility, the modules can be digitally advertised via REHAU SmartShelf, a digital price and information signage that can be changed as desired. The system allows direct evaluation of sales data, adjustment of prices and real time display. In addition, the operator's personnel costs are significantly reduced, compared to a conventional system, as there is no longer a checkout process. The K-BOX has the added benefit of reducing queues for the end consumer, as each module can be used separately. 

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Canteens, petrol stations, airports, hotel lobbies or fitness centres are possible locations for the K-BOX. Starting with an initial field test in the lobby of REHAU's headquarters, the K-BOX has already been put through its paces by REHAU employees – with extremely positive feedback. Further project implementations have been progressed over the last few months. 

The Coronavirus pandemic created an unexpectedly fast and increasing demand for the project team. "Especially due to travel and contact restrictions, the last few months have been challenging, as well as motivating. In a very short time, and in difficult circumstances, we were able to demonstrate our idea works. The pandemic has given us an enormously high drive for the project," explains Germar Pflug, member of the GLEEBEES management.

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Despite numerous restrictions in March, the rollout of the first projects was pushed ahead rapidly.

Due to the Corona restrictions, the modules were still being manufactured under pre-series conditions at REHAU, GLEEBEES and our partner KESSEBÖHMER, as the start of series production had to be postponed due to the lockdowns. "Currently, everyone in the K-BOX team is working on setting up all the processes for the start of series production, which was now starting in Spring 2021. We strongly believe in, and look forward to, further exciting implementations." Mario Goda, Sales Director Global & Business Unit Development.

More about KESSEBÖHMER: https://www.kesseboehmer.world/en/

Engineering progress

Enhancing lives