International Journal of Business and Social Science

ISSN 2219-1933 (Print), 2219-6021 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijbss

The Global Supply Chain in the Digital Age: Transformative Factors Affecting Industrial Vending
Gabriel Manrique, Cecilia Manrique

For businesses, the unrelenting drive towards efficiency, lower cost, and higher margins, has led to the search for continuous improvements in inventory management. One area driving innovation in inventory management today is industrial vending machines - used to provide workers on the shop floor and in any production process with supplies required in a timely manner. Indeed, vending machines are not just for snacks anymore. It is becoming more ubiquitous in factories, offices, and warehouses and we expect it will continue to become more so. In this paper, we discuss the history of vending machines and the case of one of the leaders in the use of industrial vending – Fastenal Company – to analyze the important factors that have taken place during the last 3 decades which have allowed the transformation of vending from a purely consumer-oriented activity to an important component of the global supply chain. We use Fastenal Company for this study because its development mirrored to a large extent the historical development of industrial vending. The digital revolution, various methods of data handling and transmission, highly developed concepts of LEAN, Just in Time (JIT) Inventory Management, Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), manufacturing cells, point-of-work (POW) systems, and Six Sigma are just some of the transformative factors we include in our analysis of this industrial transformation. We conclude with a discussion of the business gains in terms of reducing cost, raising efficiency, and increasing profitability that have accompanied the phenomenon of industrial vending.

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