A VMI Game-Changer
AutoCrib, distributor Pioneer Tool collaborate for innovative new vending system
Industrial vendor managed inventory (VMI) systems have been around for about 20 years, and like all technology, they continue to become more efficient and sophisticated.
AutoCrib, founded in 1994, has been the VMI supplier
of choice for many industrial distributors – large and
small. The Tustin, CA-based company has systems in place
at more than 300 distributors, many of which have partnered with AutoCrib for 10 years or more.
The capabilities of today’s industrial VMI systems dwarf
that of their predecessors, but even so, customers continue to ask for more. A few things customers have been
asking for recently are a vending machine that doesn’t
require distributors to repackage their products, a machine that can hold more SKUs in a smaller footprint, and
a machine that is virtually maintenance free, capable of
being reconfigured on the fly.
To answer those challenges, AutoCrib and its cross-country partner Pioneer Tools (Agawam, MA) recently
collaborated to form a new system. The result was yet
another AutoCrib innovation — the TX750.
At Pioneer Tool, company president Derek Upson had
experienced the aforementioned VMI issues. Most tools
arrive in square or rectangular packages, whereas most
industrial vending machines have pie-shaped bins, resulting in a need to repackage items before they went into
“With our older machines, if you wanted to distribute
an item like an extra-long drill, you would have had to
know it was going into the machine in order to configure
for it,” Upson says. “As a distributor, I would want a new
machine that can configure for any size item on the fly,
without taking up as much real estate in a traditional
AutoCrib founder Stephen Pixley took Upson’s hard-
ware and software input to develop a prototype, and the
two worked with Pioneer head of vending Mike Cottuli
to run exhaustive tests at AutoCrib’s R&D facility in Or-
ange County, CA. When Upson’s list of modifications was
completed, the RoboCrib TX750 was born. It is the first
automated inventory vending system to feature a flexible,
rolling dual-tambour-style door (like a household garage
door) that dispenses square boxes and other products not
supported by traditional coil or carousel machines.
The TX750’s capacity is 30 percent more than earlier systems’, achieved by eliminating wasted vertical bin height
associated with fixed-door machines. With that, the machine requires only 9. 8 square feet of floor space.
The TX750’s dispense door can open to as little as two
inches, and as much as 60 inches, all within one-inch increments. This enables it to accommodate a vast arrange
of inventory with little waste. A 19-inch display interface
offers added ease-of-use.
“The TX750 is a definite improvement and offers
greater flexibility,” Upson says. “Since installing the first
of the new machines in April, they have required virtually
no maintenance or downtime.”
The machines have helped Upson and Pioneer earn
new business, aided by the fact they can be readied for
customers in just days instead of weeks, as with older
“I actually ended up signing a new account as a result
of the client seeing this machine,” Upson says.
BY MIKE HOCKETT
The AutoCrib RoboCrib TX750 Industrial Vending Solution.