It was two millennia ago that Greek engineer, Hero of Al- exandria, invented the frst vending machine—a series of mechanisms activated by a Roman coin to dispense a controlled amount of holy water. Even back then, you couldn’t trust the honor system.
The vending industry has progressed prodigiously since
then, dispensing everything from candy bars to soft drinks
to crazier things in Japan, such as hats for cats. And it was
a trip to Japan in 1989 by a disciple of lean manufacturing,
Kent Savage, that inspired the very frst industrial vending
machine, which doled out manufacturing tools for Ford plants.
These parts are a heck of a lot more costly than holy water,
and the trickle of lost or misplaced supplies can be enough
to wash away profts.
Matt Schron, general manager at Jergens Industrial Supply
(JIS), says insuffcient inventory control can cost companies
millions of dollars by spending on parts that never get used.
“To me every shop has the same degree of that going on,
whether it’s a $5 million or $10 million shop,” says Schron,
whose great-grandfather and grandfather founded the Cleve-land-based Jergens, Inc. to make airplane seat components
during World War II. The company branched out to distribution
50 years ago when customers began asking if they would also
sell them drills and other tools along with manufactured parts.
“We have always been on the cusp of technology and
innovation and I want to keep it that way,” Schron says.
For the last decade, they have stayed competitive by providing customer facilities with AutoCrib industrial vending
machines free of charge. The result is a 30% increase in
productivity, according to JIS. These smart vending machines, including the RoboCrib VX1000 and newer TX750,
hold anything from power tools to tiny circular inserts, and
it’s consignment inventory, so the user doesn’t spend until
Access to each item can be controlled via specifc login,
badge scan or even fngerprint to open up, tailored specifcally
for each user’s role or specifc application for the day. That
can prevent a machinist from using the wrong tool or material,
which can damage a part of machine. The TX750 can also
store up to 987 items and limits can be set so a department
does not go over budget or a worker doesn’t overuse items.
“Hoarding happens,” Schron says. “A worker may take
a pack of 10 inserts, throw it in a box and forget about it.”
This can add up as packs of small carbide drill inserts
can cost $45.
By synching up to the customer and supplier’s ERP,
this allows for real-time part tracking and worker
“You know who took it out, you have tracking and
tracing of what job it went to,” Schron explains. This
means thati f a reusable item, like a metrology gage,
is missing at the end of the shift, you know exactly
who took it.
Theoretically, this automated honor system benefts
the worker, too—unless they are like Johnny Cash
trying build their own car “one piece at a time” on
the company dime. Instead of searching each station
for that special piece of equipment, or walking what
could be hundreds or so yards to the supply room,
everything they need can be centrally located.
The user can set a threshold for how many units must
be in stock at the site, and the daily report sent to to
JIS will allow the distributor to keep the machine shop
or manufacturer adequately supplied. This prevents
availability from being the source of any downtime.
“Most facilities usually have run rates of $150-200
per hour,” Schron says. “You could have a $10 insert
or drill you’re looking for, and it’s not in your facility that
could cause you to lose your production rates.”
The bigger the job, the more vital availability of even
the smallest tool becomes.
“That $10 drill can impact them sending a $100,000
part,” Schron says.
DRIVEN BY DATA
Schron also believes the automated machines, serving
as both onsite point of service and interface to the Industrial Internet of Things, were a major reason JIS grew by
500% between 2010 and 2015. JIS has about 120 of these
machines at facilities scattered across the Midwest, which
are now connected to its Epicor’s Prophet 21 distribution
The advanced cloud solution allows JIS to integrate to
the AutoCrib machines via ODBC drivers, which standardize
communication from applications to database management
systems via SQL. In humanspeak, it lets the supplier import
relevant data easier.
“I’m a big believer that our team opens two programs in
the morning: Prophet 21 and Outlook,” Schron says. “We
need to drive all of our data and accountability through
these two applications.”
This lets JIS dive deeper into the data from daily reports
than ever before to not only predict what a customer will need
and when, but if something is out of the ordinary.
This goes well beyond parts usage and acts like a biometric monitor for the entire plant. For example, if there’s
a spike in disposable hearing protection usage in a certain
department, the environmental safety manager might want
to investigate how to mitigate that risk.
“We know they [typically] use ten in a month, now they used
ten in a day,” Schron says. “We can ask, ‘Why is it changing
and what do we need to address?’”
For the full article, visit: NewEquipment.com/
Vending machines date back to the Roman Empire, and tool-dispensing ones are two decades old, but
Industry 4.0 has inserted a new reason to have them manage your spare parts and tools.
By John Hitch
AutoCrib’s RoboCrib TX750’s compartments and doors adjust vertically,
making them 30% more space effcient than machines with fxed
doors. They can also dispense square and rectangular boxes.