Keep Your Plumbers Safe and Supplied

Vending machines bring technology to your PPE and equipment distribution system
Keep Your Plumbers Safe and Supplied
Vending machines can reduce the labor involved in retrieving and distributing items workers need to stay safe on the job.

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How many safety glasses do you have in stock right now? Do you know how many you go through in a month or how much of your PPE and other equipment just walks out the door?

Industrial vending of such items is growing in popularity as companies try to save money and cut the amount of work that goes into the distribution and stocking of equipment, according to Russ Rubie, vice president of Fastenal Company. “People want to make sure those items are available and want to understand who is using them.”

With only an electrical outlet and an Internet connection, a vending machine is always available and automatically tracks and reports usage and inventory. Rubie says Fastenal has 40,000 machines across the U.S. and users typically report a 30 percent reduction in consumption and spending. “You can put these machines at the point of use and all the equipment needed to do the task is right there.”

Fastenal provides the vending machines and keeps them stocked through the machines’ automated ordering capabilities. “That takes away a lot of steps in procurement, which eliminates cost,” says Rubie.

Management also receives that information in daily, weekly and monthly reports. “PPE likes to walk away,” says Rubie. “Most of the time it’s unintentional; it could be a pair of gloves in your back pocket or the safety glasses on top of your head and then you discover you have five pairs in your car.”

By tracking use by department or even individuals, those people can be reminded of how much they are using to help them be more accountable for the equipment. Some companies set controls so that items can only be dispensed by certain groups or in limited amounts. But most find that the system’s ability to track usage by individuals is enough to curb wasteful consumption. Vending also eliminates the incentive to hoard supplies, because employees know that more is readily available.

The vending machines can also send automatic email alerts when items such as first-aid supplies are dispensed to help a company follow up on safety incidents. There are also beverage machines that track how much employees are drinking to make sure they are staying hydrated.

From office supplies to tools
Nearly anything can be included in a vending program. Popular items that Fastenal machines are used for include:
Eye, hearing and hand protection
Hard hats
Hand tools
Drill bits
Lubricants, penetrants and corrosion inhibitors
Paints and accessories
Cable ties
Knives, razors and multi-tools
Tape measures

There are also vended locker systems for larger items that can record how long equipment is checked out and track calibration and certifications:
Hand and power tools

Vending can be monitored in a number of ways, including a keypad for entering a pin number, magnetic strip cards or employee badges. Rubie says Fastenal has machines placed in a wide variety of industries including oil and natural gas, mining and drilling, aerospace, automotive, construction, power plants, machine and tool fabrication, shipping, railroads, and many others. “They immediately notice the reduction in consumption and eliminating inventory,” he says of feedback he receives from customers. “The 24/7 service without an attendant and automated reordering is very important to them.”

Rubie says it is important to do your homework before entering into a vending agreement. “When evaluating vending providers, be sure to ask the right questions. “Do they have the safety products you need in vend-ready packaging? Who will be responsible for managing the inventory, restocking the machines, and making adjustments based on your changing product needs? And what can they bring to the table in terms of safety services like facility inspections, PPE fittings, and product selection support?”


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