Industrial Vending Machines: Benefits and Less Costly Alternatives
- What are Industrial Vending Machines?
- Benefits of Industrial Vending Machines
- Challenges of Industrial Vending Machines
- Less Costly Alternatives
Industrial vending machines are a popular inventory solution across industries. Generally used for MRO and other inventory management purposes, this technology can help address shrinkage issues and improve accountability in warehouses and industrial environments. At the same time, these machines bring about high costs and crippling limitations for some use cases. Read on to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of industrial vending machines and discover a more cost-effective solution.
What Are Industrial Vending Machines?
As the name suggests, industrial vending machines are similar in appearance and use to the classic vending machines that dispense snacks and drinks, except industrial vending machines dispense PPE supplies and tools. Industrial vending machines are automated distribution systems that can be tailored for the size, shape, and volume requirements of the inventory they carry. Instead of inserting a credit card or cash in exchange for a soda, users swipe an employee badge or enter an ID code in exchange for access to equipment and inventory.
Industrial vending machines are used in utility and manufacturing warehousing, construction, healthcare and various other industries to streamline and control the distribution of tools, supplies, consumables and inventory. Because they provide a controlled environment for every piece of equipment and create a solid correlation between users and materials, they are popular for use cases that require careful usage tracking and a high level of accountability.
Benefits of Industrial Vending Machines
Industrial vending machines offer considerable benefits for certain use cases. A few reasons an organization might invest in industrial vending machines include the following:
Enhanced Inventory Control
One of the key benefits of industrial vending machines is that they offer tight control over all of the inventory within them. Industrial vending machines can allow you to place limits on quantities taken by certain individuals or a group of individuals, create shifts when users can take items, and control total dollars spent.
Improved Accountability With Controlled Access
Supply rooms, construction sites and warehouses where shrinkage has been an issue might find more success with industrial vending machines because products cannot be removed at will but rather must be checked out by personnel with the appropriate clearance or authority level. Set vending machines to dispense equipment only to employees with relevant uses, implement certain times when equipment is available for checkout, or limit the number of each supply type dispensed per badge number. With a checkout system tied directly to employee profiles, using an industrial vending machine can drastically improve inventory accountability.
Time and Labor Savings
While manual inventory management can drain countless hours of work time for counting, ordering and optimizing, industrial vending machines provide more automated solutions that pave the way for enhanced productivity. Having a central and space-efficient location for a variety of inventory items also reduces employee “walk-time” and storage square footage needs.
Data and Reporting
Using an industrial vending machine allows organizations to quickly view data such as usage rates, current quantities, and more. If they are tied to the right software, industrial vending machines can provide easy snapshots of important inventory data and allow for in-depth analysis and reporting across departments, processes, shifts, and organizations.
Challenges of Industrial Vending Machines
For all of their exciting benefits, industrial vending machines also create significant challenges that prevent them from being the right inventory solution for many teams.
High Initial Costs
The largest barrier keeping teams from using industrial vending machines is the high initial cost. Industrial vending machines typically cost $15,000-$20,000 per locker or cabinet. In many cases, they’re used to store relatively low-cost items, making it even more difficult to justify spending so many thousands of dollars on a new piece of equipment and a large transition cost to a new system.
Maintenance and Service Costs
As with any large piece of machinery, industrial vending machines can also incur substantial maintenance and service costs. Depending on the types of machines in use as well as the frequency of use and the type of equipment stored, industrial vending machines can require thousands of dollars in service costs every year. This additional cost is generally only worth it if the items stored are very high-value. In addition, electromechanical devices fail. If this occurs, then there is no longer “controlled access.” There is “no access” to those items.
Limited Product Range
Using an industrial vending machine as an inventory management solution means needing to choose specified products for each slot. There are limited spaces within the vending machine, which can lead to a more limited product variety and available quantity than desired. For many organizations valuing flexibility and a range of options, this limitation makes purchasing an industrial vending machine a poor solution for inventory management needs.
Less Costly Alternatives
Organizations whose product values do not justify the high investment cost required for the industrial vending machine, whose products don’t fit into the lockers well, or who don’t need that level of controlled access can still benefit from advanced inventory management technology.
eTurns offers a suite of solutions with many elements of vending machine functionality, for a fraction of the cost. eTurns TrackStock solutions leverage advanced software for more visibility, control, and efficiency throughout the inventory management process.
For example, inventory management software integrated with weight sensors, like the TrackStock SensorBins Solution, combines the organization and time-saving benefits of a vending machine with the flexibility, automation, and in-depth technical capabilities needed in manufacturing and medical settings. The SensorBins solution uses weight sensors underneath bins of each inventory item to automatically convert weights to item quantities. By connecting with eTurns TrackStock cloud software, SensorBins facilitate fully automated inventory replenishment with no need for human intervention. Automatic reorders occur when quantities fall below the minimum level, ensuring that you never run out of critical stock, which is especially important in medical and manufacturing settings.
With SensorBins, organizations can leverage the following capabilities and benefits:
- Auto-replenishment triggered by weight sensors with min/max settings
- 24/7 remote inventory visibility
- Time and labor savings through automated counting and orders
- Robust data and reporting capabilities: up to 90 customizable inventory reports sent as email alerts
- AI inventory optimization tools: Min/Max AI Dashboard
- Alerts Dashboard to draw attention to areas of the replenishment process that require action
TrackStock users gain access to the Min/Max AI Dashboard, which learns your inventory usage over time and helps you optimize your minimum and maximums. These optimized minimums and maximums also optimize inventory levels, which reduces carrying costs and saves cash while still preventing stockouts. With SensorBins, users not only skip the large investment required to implement industrial vending machines, but can also reduce both inventory levels and carrying costs by up to 73%.
In some cases, an extra layer of accountability is crucial for the success of an inventory management system. For these cases, eTurns partners with Boxlock.io and SupplyPro to couple our robust automated inventory management solutions with their locks and vending machines.
In conclusion, eTurns TrackStock is a better alternative than a pure industrial vending solution because:
- TrackStock can be used to manage a combination of any of the following solutions in the same organization: vending machines, SensorBins, electronic shelf labels, RFID digital kanban, QR-code scanning solutions, as well as Boxlock.
- At 15% of the price of industrial vending machines, SensorBins provide all the benefits except for controlled access
- The TrackStock software has the ability to optimize inventory levels and give point-of-use inventory data and reports that most industrial vending software can’t.
From controlled access to automated ordering, eTurns provides a full suite of inventory management solutions to meet any need. Learn more today!