How Vending Can Help Distributors and Their Customers Move Past the Pandemic

Are you ready to help your customers navigate the challenges of a post-pandemic world?

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From the imposition of stringent sanitation requirements, to supply chain disruption and operational shutdowns, the pandemic certainly forced us all to adapt the way we do business.

Not only did COVID-19 strike a serious blow to our healthcare system, manufacturing sectors and supply chain, but now we battle disruption from other sources. The war in Ukraine, inflation, rising transportation costs, closed ports in Asia and impacts from recent trade agreements continue to plague distributors and their customers. 

As a result, sourcing parts and products requires a more targeted and data-driven approach than distributors have relied on in the past. 

Distributors Can Be the Hero in Times of Crisis

As you move past the pandemic, your customers’ needs have evolved beyond managing the health and safety of their employees. They are now facing supply shortages, record-high freight costs and extended lead times as consumer demand continues to soar. 

For manufacturers to resume pre-pandemic production rates, they need supply partners to help them track and manage inventory within their organization. Without inventory data, they run the risk of missing or mismanaged inventory items leading to production delays and higher procurement costs. 

This is where distributors can become their customers’ secret weapon. 

You know your customers’ needs better than anyone. Your entire business model is based on the ability to forecast their needs and build relationships. Time and time again, when customers’ needs and expectations evolve, you pivot to evolve with them. 

So, how can distributors help address these new challenges? 

Industrial Vending Bridges the Inventory Data Gap

One way that many distributors are adapting to changing customer behaviors is by introducing industrial vending machines and inventory management software. With the industrial vending machine market forecasted to grow to $4.6 billion this decade (Grand View Research), it can hardly be considered a flash in the pan. 

Rising adoption of the Internet-of-Things (IoT) is expected to amplify this upward trend as more companies implement technology to keep up with record demand and supply shortages. Recent advances such as low-cost technology and simple, yet powerful, software in some of today’s vending solutions have made this value-added service accessible to businesses large and small.

This means that more distributors are entering the market and offering vending solutions to their customers. 

Why Vending? 

Vending machines are a safe and effective way to track and dispense critical inventory items at the point of use. The software associated with vending solutions allows customers to gain real-time visibility into their inventory needs, eliminating stockouts and overages. Inventory control solutions also provide end-users with 24/7 access to the material they need to work safely, with zero excuses for non-compliance.

In addition to providing 24/7 access for high-turn consumables like safety gloves and glasses, these units can also help manage more expensive items with Checkout/ Return functionality. Whatever the application, industrial vending and inventory management software can help promote more efficient use of all equipment by providing transactional data and identifying usage trends. 

What’s more, point-of-use solutions like vending help your customers track and document employee compliance for improved safety; an important factor when noncompliance of any kind can place the business in direct violation of state and federal regulations. 

Vending machines aren’t limited by item size or type and can vend common industrial supply, PPE and MRO items such as:

  • Cutting tools
  • Safety gloves
  • Respiratory protection
  • Eye protection
  • Ear protection
  • Fall prevention
  • Safety vests
  • Batteries and flashlights
  • Lubricants
  • Paints and sealants
  • Welding supplies
  • Hand sanitizer and face masks

In addition to vending machines, distributors can improve their customers’ warehouse management with advanced technology like barcode scanners. QR or Barcode scanners help track and manage inventory in tool cribs and parts bins, reducing waste, identifying trends and forecasting future needs. 

When industrial vending and inventory control software are offered as value-added services, distributors find that their customers achieve better inventory control, improved safety compliance, lower carrying costs, reduced stockouts and improved productivity. These benefits amount to more than just dollars and cents; it results in stronger partnerships and happier customers — no matter the challenges ahead. 

Mark Hill is the founder of inventory control software company 1sourcevend. Contact him at [email protected].

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