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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

SkyTender - Dispensing drinks in a trolley

In 2007, competition in the Indonesian airline industry was at one of the hottest stages, and investors for start-up carriers were asking for innovative cabin service. My client start-up at that time wanted to provide free flow soft drinks along with tea and coffee, but not end up with the galleys overfilled with cans and bottles.

The SkyTender
One crazy night I thought up of the "all-in-one drinks dispenser on a trolley." The idea involved a specially modified serving trolley carrying disposable cups, and cramming a drinks dispenser into it. Despite the investor's desire for innovation, this "great idea" I had was met with great opposition. "You're crazy Gerry! It'll never happen!"

That start-up carrier didn't take off, two later ones also innovation but also told me I was crazy about the "all-in-one drinks dispenser trolley." The last time I was told that, was November 2010. I gave up on the idea, especially after I decided to join an equally crazy and innovative company where I still am today.

My work sends me to interesting events such as airshows, seminars, etc, on many things related to aviation. The most interesting event happens every year, the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg. This year, AIX was a busy one for me and I had to do with making the most out of the little time browsing for the latest innovation. I was about to rush out of AIX on the last day to catch my flight when I ran into this:

The SkyTender on it's debut in 2011

I could not help myself stopping and having a look. I stared at it for 5 minutes with my jaws dropped. After 5 years of thinking, "maybe I am crazy afterall," seeing that contraption made my innovative mind go crazy! Look at it! It was exactly how I wanted it!

Touch the drink you
want and presto!
So I asked for a quick demo. Of course, they'd pour me a drink first! Unfortunately, they didn't make me an apfelschorle, but after 5 years of thinking I was crazy, I'm not complaining !

Want a drink? Chose from 12 drinks and press the button.

But I had to ask, can it make apfelschorle? Answer was a very quick, "YES!" Soft drinks, juices, hot drinks, cold drinks... so apart from the 12 drinks you can choose from, it can mix and match up to 30 combinations, hot or cold.

The dispensing head can lower itself flush with the trolley top for storage in the galley. Neat!

The system itself is an amazing contraption. It is a modular design. Various canisters, including the CO2 for soda. If the CO2 canister loses pressure, anything with soda disappears from the selection screen until pressure is restored, so passengers don't have to deal with flat soda drinks. Water is stored in cylinders. The syrups and concentrates are stored on the dispensing head, in boxes. This enables crew to check use by dates or last refill dates to ensure they're not dishing out expired stuff or poison! The dispensing head itself, has I think, 12 spouts, so no mixed tastes there!

To me, this SkyTender is an amazing device. It met all my requirements that came into my head in 2007. The CEO of the company that makes it, SkyMax, told me that there are already several soft drink dispensing solutions out there, but they're mainly bringing a bar single dispensing head with selectors and a single spout. Ewww! He found it very interesting that I thought of a requirement for SkyTender 5 years ago, but he was not surprised at the reaction I faced. 

SkyMax's SkyTender was the last thing I saw at AIX 2012, but I left AIX 2012 with some relief in my mind. I may be crazy, but it's good crazy! Crazy innovations can always be put to work and realized, given time and the right business case. What I learnt from AIX 2012 was that the airline industry need crazy people like me, or like the person who said it to answer my question in public, Panasonic Avionic's VP Global Communications Services, David Bruner. I'll have to get the right quote of what he said...

Here's a longer video on the SkyTender, however, it's only in German. This was taken immediately after the little demo session for me.

More info on the SkyTender can be found at http://www.skymax.eu

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