Photo courtesy of Clarcorp Industrial SalesClarcorp industrial vending machines save inventory costs and increase accountability.
Vending machines are increasingly being used outside of their traditional role of dispensing snacks and sodas. Today, they are used to dispense books in schools and inventory in manufacturing facilities. Why? Part of the answer is accountability. With costs rising across the economy, companies are seeking ways to make products available to employees, customers and students 24/7 without having them go missing due to carelessness or sticky fingers.
Clarcorp Industrial Sales is a Waukesha-based, family-owned hardware supplier that serves manufacturing, industrial and fleet organizations throughout Wisconsin. The company recently increased its investment in industrial vending machines to help customers achieve both cost savings and accountability for the products that are consumed in their daily work.
“We have multiple customers that have expressed issues with both theft and misplaced product,” said Karisa King, director of sales for Clarcorp. “But the losses are not always caused by carelessness or theft. For example, one client had a lot of new, non-English speaking employees, and they actually thought they should throw away their safety glasses and gloves after each shift. It was just a misunderstanding.”
King said any customer that is really looking for a solution to assess why they are using too much of one product and not enough of another will benefit from the vending machines. Each employee either uses an RFID card or punches in their individual code, and it logs what product they took and when. Then, you can investigate if anything seems out of the ordinary.
“The typical average when you implement these machines is that customers save 25 – 30 percent of their total cost across every product in the machine,” King stated.
She explained the reason vending machines are being used more in industrial settings is due to the increased sophistication of the software in the machines that can now handle more complexity. Artificial intelligence is coming to these machines and King views them as an important component of future inventory management.
There are two basic types of vending machines: coil machines, like those that dispense snacks, and lockers that are better for larger products. The coil machines that Clarcorp carries can hold up to 60 different products. They are high security, and they work best for expensive products like cutting tools, carbide inserts for drills and router bits. They also make sense for lower cost, convenience items like safety glasses, Sharpies, brushes and small hand tools.
Locker-style vending machines are for heavier and bulkier items like a drill or other tools and can accommodate up to 75 pounds per rack. There are knockout plates inside the locker that enable tools to be recharged while they are in the locker. King said they are a bit less secure than coil machines because, although they require an RFID card or punch code, individuals can take as many products as they want out of the machine after logging in, instead of just one item. However, the employer will be able to see who was in the machine when the inventory was removed.
Most of Clarcorp’s customers that use vending machines are part of a Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) program, in which Clarcorp manages their inventory and replenishes stock automatically for them to save time and money, and keep things organized for them.
“A VMI program is beneficial for companies that have multiple class C fasteners or multiple MRO items they are constantly going through and need to keep in stock,” said King. “We also provide sub-assembly for clients to simplify their inventory, for items like lanyards and emergency handles that go on the customers’ product.”
The company also provides custom kitting and packaging for fasteners and other products that a manufacturer may need employees to use on hundreds of product assemblies. King says it saves valuable time if they can just grab a kit and assemble a product rather than picking one fastener at a time during assembly.
“Clarcorp offers a lot of flexibility due to our size and the skill level we have in problem-solving for our customers,” said King. “There’s no corporate red tape in our organization like some of the big national players. Our motto is, we make doing business with us easy.”