Common Questions About Vending
July 8, 2021
By Heath Hazard | 24 Years of Supply Chain Experience at Fastenal
By Heath Hazard | 24 Years of Supply Chain Experience at Fastenal
What parts go in a vending machine?
The ones that will provide you the biggest return on investment! Some teams want to control access to mission-critical and high-dollar consumables. Others, want the most often-needed, high-usage items (think gloves and safety glasses) moved as close to the users as possible.
Will products have trouble vending properly?
We test and certify each product for vending to ensure reliability. Our machines incorporate patented Verified Vend™ technology, which checks and verifies accuracy. If the machine is loaded correctly, you will enjoy 99.99% trouble-free vending.
Do certain items not dispense?
Sometimes an item's size, shape, or packaging will prevent it from vending reliably. In these instances, these items are probably best suited for a Locker Pickup system.
Can I control which items my employees have access to?
Yes, “allocation codes” can be used to control access. An allocation code is a rule that applies to all employees in a particular group. For example, you can apply a rule so that everyone who is a member of the production department can get one pair of gloves per day. Allocation codes can also be used to track cost by department, work order, and job number.
What information can be entered by employees?
Employee ID (or employee code) and a PIN number. And up to six allocation codes, such as, department, job number, or location.
How many items can an employee vend at once?
You can specify how many products an employee can vend following each "swipe," with a limit of 10 vends per swipe. However, the helix will always spin one time per selection, dispensing a single item or package. So, if the user wants three items, he or she must vend that position three times in order to dispense those products.
How does replenishment work?
The system uses "min," "max," and "critical" inventory levels to notify the local Fastenal team when items need to be replenished. When an item falls below the min level, the Fastenal branch receives an email and/or text notification. The Fastenal representative then logs into the software and runs a replenishment report to view any "below min" inventory required to bring the machine back to a full state.
Can these be used outdoors?
Yes, machines are often installed at construction sites and other outdoor environments. However, the machine must be protected on three sides with an overhang. Products that cannot be exposed to temperature/humidity changes should not be placed in machines stationed outdoors.
What languages do the machines support?
The software is in English, but the machine can support English, Spanish and French. Users can select a language within the software for each employee, so that users see the appropriate language displayed on the machine when vending.
What is the approximate cost to run each machine?
Quick answer: Approximately $20 per month. Long answer: The machine draws 3 amps at 110 volts = 330 watts. 330 watts x 24 hours x 365 days = 2,891 KW. As an example, the average electricity cost in Ohio is .08 per kW, so the average cost would be $231 per year if running at full use 24/7. There is an energy saver option on the machines that you can use to limit the hours per day when the unit is "awake."
What is the carbon footprint of each machine?
The annual carbon footprint is approximately 520 lbs. of C02 and 0.09 tons of coal (assuming the power comes from a coal-fired power plant, as opposed to a wind turbine or nuclear plant).
What kinds of power/connections are required for the machines?
Each machine requires an outlet and an open internet connection. Multiple machines running on one internet connection require a switch (or router) located inside the "master" machine. Also, the electrical requirements are a 110V AC outlet.
Who installs the machine(s)?
The machines are installed and maintained by trained local Fastenal employees.
What happens if the power goes out, or the internet connection is lost?
Transactions are stored in non-volatile memory. If the power or internet connection is interrupted, recent transactions would remain in memory until both the power and the internet connection are restored, at which time they would be uploaded to our reporting website.
How is connectivity monitored?
The software checks the connection to all machines every 15 minutes. If a machine does not return a response (a "heartbeat") for a full three hours, the software sends an email notification to the group advising of a problem. This allows for momentary "hiccups" in connectivity while ensuring awareness of legitimate issues. If a machine has failed to return a heartbeat for one hour or more, this will be displayed on the software's main reporting page for that account. If connectivity is dropped, the machine will display a "connection down" message.
If connectivity is lost for an extended period of time, the machine can run offline, as long as that option is chosen for vending product during the downtime. That data can be tracked in the Machine Checkbook Reports, but it would not be available until the machine is back up and online, allowing the data to flow from the machine to our reporting website.
How do the machines communicate?
The machines initiate all communication to Fastenal’s web server. Neither Fastenal nor anyone else can initiate a connection to the machine. The machine checks in with the server twice hourly to let the web software "know" that it is still operating correctly. Each time a user dispenses something from the machine, that transaction is communicated to the web server. All transactions are encrypted with the AES encryption algorithm. Transaction sizes average between 1 and 2 KB each.
Can the machine be put in dusty environments?
FAST 5000SM machines come equipped with an industrial-grade seal around the door designed to keep out small particles. Site personnel should clean the glass and wipe the key pad and trays every few weeks. Some types of readers do not operate well in extremely dusty environments. In these situations, it is recommended that the machine be set up for keypad (versus ID card scan) operation.
What operating system do Fastenal's machines run?
FAST 5000SM machines use an embedded processor with an industrial kernel and do not require a separate operating system.
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