Intelligent storage systems for managing your tooling inventory: vending machines

Vending machines provide point-of-use inventory management for industrial tools and supplies. But they are more than just a means for storing tools and inventory; they play an important role in any tool-management system. 

When you think of a vending machine it’s likely that bags of crisps, bars of chocolate and cans of fizzy drinks will come to mind. But vending machines have much wider applications and their history dates all the way back to ancient civilisations. The first vending machine was invented in Greece by Hero Alexandria in the first century as a means of dispensing holy water at temples, to ensure that people took only their share.  

The use of vending machines in industrial applications have grown significantly in recent years. The global industrial vending machine market is widely expected to grow by 9.7% from 2022 to 2030, gaining popularity with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular.  

Similar in concept to their snacking-based cousins, industrial vending machines are designed to securely house industrial inventory, including tools, cutters, and small testing equipment as examples. Industrial vending machines come in all shapes and sizes and serve to hold tools on your site until your operatives need them. The machines can take the form of screw-type units that are almost identical to those used for dispensing snacks, rotating carousels, and lockers for larger items.  

Is a vending machine right for your business? 

There are questions that, as an owner or manager of a machine shop, you will likely ask yourself on a frequent basis. Can your operatives quickly and easily find the tools and other supplies they need to carry-out their work, and are they accountable for these tools? Do you know where those tools are at all times? How much money are you losing by not having the right tools in stock? If you are still holding your inventory of tools in boxes and on open shelves, your answers to all these questions will likely be ‘no’.   

Using industrial vending machines, with their sophisticated monitoring functions, and cloud-based inventory management software like CRIBWISE, you can gather this information, which you can then exploit to reduce costs and improve productivity. 

Easy access 

To access a tool, your operatives first use a tool vending machine’s identification system. This can be triggered by barcode scanners, codes, and proximity or smart cards; you can configure the machines to best meet your needs. Then, the user selects the item or tool they need, usually from a touchscreen display. The machine then dispenses the tool in a matter of seconds, but it can also log withdrawals automatically so that you can view and analyse records of items taken out of the machine, by whom, when and for what reason.  

Many benefits 

The main benefit of tool vending machines is that they can be used to automate the process for re-ordering tools. As the machine runs low, it will send a restocking order to the supplier(s) of the tools, which ensures that operatives will have the tools they require.  

Having the confidence that the right tool will be available for the job, just when it is needed, can do much to reduce tool spend. It solves the problems associated with holding too much inventory, which can limit working capital and jeopardise your bottom line. CRIBWISE tooling inventory management software also offers the additional ability to integrate with widely used ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems. This integration allows purchase order data to be synchronized to the ERP, eliminating the need for time wasted on manual input and the risk of human error.  

Further, tool vending machines allow tool-usage to be monitored. They track who is using what on the shopfloor and managers can use this information to assess the productivity of their operatives, machines and processes. Given the expense of tooling, the value of this data is high.  

CRIBWISE software works with a wide variety of leading industrial vending machine providers, including AUTOCRIB, Sieflaff and Lista, who offer a wide range of vending and dispense machines for cutting and CNC tools storage. To talk about your storage needs with one of our experts, and to learn how you can grow your business with intelligent inventory management systems, click here.