February 5, 2016 / best practices, bottlenecks, continuous improvement, Cost Management, LIT, productivity, resource allocation, ROI, strategic planning, workflow process
Many technologies have helped advance the manufacturing industry to where it stands today. From the Industrial Revolution in the late 17th Century and Ford’s assembly line for its Model T to robotic automation and the Industrial Internet of Things, new applications and advanced software solutions enable the manufacturing industry to adapt. One such technology—the industrial vending machine—is currently helping the industrial metal cutting industry adapt as well.
Industrial vending machines are based on the traditional machines you know and love, but instead of providing a quick snack, they distribute metal cutting parts, tools, and other consumable supplies (e.g., safety gloves, goggles, metal-cutting blades). The key benefit is streamlined inventory control—the machines keep track of the person or department requesting the part and the time and frequency of requests, in addition to monitoring inventory levels. This can eliminate the need for storage rooms or tool “cribs,” as well as the necessary staff needed to manage them.
With metal cutting companies facing diverse economic conditions and shifting shipment levels, industrial vending machines can help service centers increase operational efficiency and productivity. As reported in this white paper by the LENOX Institute of Technology, resource allocation and efficiency are top operating challenges for metal service centers. Industrial vending machines can help resolve both, while also saving costs.
Below are a few benefits of industrial vending:
- Automate ordering, receiving, stocking, and maintaining inventory
- High inventory visibility (i.e., reduce stock-outs and obsolete inventory)
- Reduce consumption, hoarding, and theft
- Control employee and department spending
- Improve job costing, inventory forecasting, and demand planning
- Reduce operator travel time and other non-value added activities
- Access control by item, department, employee, job, machine, etc.
Several metal-cutting companies are already reaping the rewards of what industrial vending can bring first-hand. The following are just two examples:
- CNC Manufacturing increased productivity and decreased tool inventory by installing industry vending machines at its shop in Coatesville, PA, according to a case study. The precision part maker not only reduced tool inventory by 80 percent but also eliminated costly manufacturing redundancies, which ultimately improved efficiency.Before CNC installed vending units, the company was working in a disorganized shop, had challenges meeting rigid delivery dates, and was fighting a constant battle to keep parts in stock and on hand. After installing vending units, CNC’s tool usage was completely controlled, which helped free-up money to invest in new machine technology and additional operators.
- Transfer Tool Products experienced a 15-percent decrease in overall tooling inventory after installing industrial vending machines at its shop in Grand Haven, Mich. According to Modern Machine Shop, the Grand Haven, MI-based company, which makes metal precision parts, needed a way to organize and manage its tools and supplies to ensure efficient production.Previous to installing the industrial vending machines, Transfer Tool had no way to track what employee took what part and why they did so. Now, however, the company can track tools but also, and more importantly, track patterns that can identify employee training issues or efficiency bottlenecks with the vending machines. For instance, the vending system saw one worker continually ordered gloves. When asked why, the company realized the worker thought he needed to replace his gloves daily and were able to provide additional training.
As service centers and other manufacturing operations look to save money and improve efficiency, industrial vending machines are quickly gaining popularity. While they have been more common in larger manufacturing operations over the last few years, smaller shops and service centers are starting to realize that automated inventory control is a fairly simple way to eliminate paperwork, save floor space, streamline purchasing, improve workflow, and, ultimately, save costs.
Could industrial vending machines be an option for your metal service center?