Getting a Handle on Inventory with Vending Solutions

Vending machine

Everyone is looking for a way to cut their budgets and utility companies are no exception. Inventory is continually scrutinized to find ways of trimming costs and reducing waste.

Purchasing managers handle thousands of high-consumable inventory items on a regular basis. For utility companies, things like fall protection gear, safety vests, other MRO items and tools are the hardest to keep in inventory.

One of the biggest cost centers for most utilities is tools. It’s critical that utilities maintain an in-depth, efficient inventory control system to not only track who is requisitioning a tool, but also what is happening to it when it leaves the stockroom.

The good news is that as technology grows, so does the number of options available to holding down inventory costs. One of those ways is through vending machines. Vending machines, you ask? Aren’t those just for snacks and beverages? Not any more.

High-consumable items - like gloves, safety vests and goggles, and tools - are loaded into a vending machine, designed to work similar to snack machines. When an employee needs, say, a set of tools, they go to the machine, swipe their employee card and the item is dispensed. The purchasing department receives a report on a custom schedule – daily, weekly or monthly – and then can order only what is most used and needed, based on what’s going through the machine. To make inventory control even easier, the vending machines can also be set up to automatically send a report to the purchasing department in the form of a purchase order that can then be sent to the distributor, once approved.

Employee accountability is another key to keeping inventory costs down and vending solutions can help, especially with smaller items. When an item is taken from the machine, the employee’s supervisor can be notified, enabling him to take action if an employee is found to be taking advantage of available items.

Since utility companies work 24/7, having an automated inventory solution that can report automatically takes the worry out of inventory control and works well with an integrated supply chain.

The main goal of a utility company is to keep the lights on and having the right inventory available when and where it’s needed is crucial. Inventory management that includes vending solutions, such as automated tool cribs, helps utilities keep the cost of inventory down while ensuring everyone has what they need when the time comes to power up.

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