drawers and vending machines are based on what’s
used. Now, I have real-time vision on what’s being used.
If consumption changes quickly, everyone in the supply
chain knows that right away. The result is not having to
have a lot of inventory. The whole thing becomes much
more lean in freeing up working capital and floor space.
This goes beyond that with intelligence. It allows the
lean black belts and facility managers to see what’s really
being used. Maybe you don’t need 20 tons of safety
glasses when you only need six.
Another way it’s being used is to control warehouse
assets. The use has expanded from vending and storing
durable tools to now vending electronic equipment and
handheld devices. A million square foot distribution
center (DC) has hundreds, potentially thousands of these
devices. Workers can check those in and out of lockers.
The lockers manage who gets what, when it should be
returned and can have a loan period put on it. The system
can monitor that. It can manage charge of batteries. If a
worker is halfway across a big DC and battery runs out,
that’s a half hour going back and forth for a new battery.
Batteries can be charged right in the locker.
ID: It seems everyone is getting
involved with cloud-based technology
nowadays, and industrial vending
is making that leap as well. What
benefits have you seen by making new
vending solutions cloud-based?
Savage: First, you have to ask if a
vending system is true cloud-based,
or is it site-based technology that’s
replicated to the Cloud? On-site
means I have to rely on their network,
and that includes security issues and
synchronization issues. The benefit of
having a true cloud system is that it
just connects and it goes. All you need
is a connection to the Cloud, which
can be Ethernet or wireless. That
makes the ease of support such a
smaller barrier to entry. The IT security
team know you’re not plugging in a
computer there. They don’t have to
worry about it. It won’t be a back door
into their network. It also allows us to
make smaller and smaller devices. It’s
not just a machine with helix. It’s smart
bins. Normal bins are so hard to keep
full on a regular basis unless you put
a lot of inventory in there. With smart
bins, you don’t need a special vehicle
to transport or specific people to install
and maintain it.
ID: With so many vending solution provider options
out there today, why should a potential customer
Savage: I think by comparison, they’ll find we’re
easier to use, easier to implement and easier to afford
than any other comparable system. Beyond that,
we’ve been at this from the beginning. We’ve been
able to learn from our global experience. We see how
customers use the technology. Because we’ve
developed scale, we can invest in research and
development to constantly improve. Our R&D budget
is larger than our competitors. We’re positioned better
for the future. When a distributor adopts this
technology, they’re making a promise to their customer
that it’s going to work. The dependability and history
of that is important. Everyone assumes ‘a box is a box
is a box’, and then they get something that requires a
heck of a lot more support on the back-end than they
anticipated. We have the resources here and globally to
make it easy.
Distributors with VMI
programs are using Apex’s
Actylus smart bin solutions
to increase productivity and
reduce costs. (Apex photo)
An Edge 5000 automated dispensing
device, which is what Apex began with.