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Vending: An Essential Value-Add


by Jane Liu

The adoption of vending solutions in the industrial sector continues to accelerate since Fastenal reset the landscape 10 years ago. Vending is now an essential value-add for a distributor to be competitive as well as to retain and grow MRO and PPE sales. Recent events requiring social distancing have further driven the demand for vending to automate the MRO replenishment and disbursement process. The next phase is to look beyond replenishment and leverage vending to ensure a distributor captures all of the available spend.

Today’s savvy distributors are focused on differentiating themselves and delivering additional value. Vending as a standalone solution may not be enough to meet customer requirements for specific inventory environments while efficiently managing their procurement processes. Tofino recognizes that customers often have hybrid environments where they prefer to have a blend of vending, VMI and CMI and that not all sites may use the same management tools. Tofino’s web-based application provides a single integrated solution that supports diverse vending environments and inventory management methods across all locations.

Vending is a proven strategy for locking in replenishment business but that is only a portion of the customer’s MRO spend. Managing spot-buy MRO procurement may also be a challenge for a distribution customer. Business procurement rules often fall short when it comes to controlling spot-buys as team members go directly to convenient and familiar sources. Although management may have secured purchasing agreements with preferred distributors, they have limited ability to control buying behavior. Rogue spend impacts not only the customer’s bottom line but also represents a lost sales opportunity for the distributor.

Tofino’s toolset puts the distributor at the source of the customer spend pipeline while solving customer requirements such as approving and tracking MRO spend. Tofino e-Procurement includes full point-of-use access to a distributor’s punchout or product catalog from any device. Tofino’s MRO Management delivers all supply room functionality and is deployed in VMI, CMI, multi-site and multi-supplier environments. Tofino integrates with most industrial vending machines allowing distributors the flexibility to support their existing solutions while satisfying those customers who may be best served by not having 100 percent of inventory in vending. Tofino’s reports and KPI dashboards deliver unified views, delivering visibility of vending and non-vending inventory consumption and procurement.

Although vending technology is not new, there continues to be significant costs both in real dollars and human resources to deploy and efficiently maintain a vending program. Distributors wanting to retain customers and grow market share have to assess the ROI associated with putting systems in place while retaining resources to optimize and service the machines.

As an alternative to high-end vending solutions, creative distributors have deployed less costly vending brands paired with advanced software solutions such as Tofino to deliver the equivalent value-add while delivering a positive ROI. Being able to support a variety of customer scenarios with a single solution positions the distributor to be agile and responsive while managing costs.

Jane LiuJane Liu is marketing manager, Tofino Software. Learn more at

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Industrial Supply magazine. Copyright 2021, Direct Business Media.


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