Parts vending made easy

May 13, 2009   by Noelle Stapinsky

Whether machines are being built or repaired, it’s common for automation parts and other small component inventories to get lost in the shuffle.

At some large facilities, it takes up to 10 minutes to retrieve a part from a supply crib. And in many cases, employees often pocket a couple of extra items to stow away for later use, thus avoiding a return trip. This may save them time, but it results in misallocated or lost inventory, and when you’re dealing with high-priced components such as sensors, switches or RFID tags, supply costs add up quickly.

This is why Omron Canada, a manufacturer and supplier of industrial automation products and solutions, has developed an automated vending machine for its products. Called Omron On Location, it makes picking up automation parts as easy as buying a chocolate bar from a vending machine, but instead of pumping quarters into a slot, you use an E-key fob and pin number.

“You enter your pin, touch the key tag and enter a job code that designates on which machine the part will be used,” says Matt Dodds, strategic marketing manager of Omron’s industrial automation division. “There’s a set of beams or photoelectric eyes that detect the product in the machine, vend it and logs it into the server immediately so you can track the [inventory] information.”

iVend technology ensures the product is properly vended using infrared sensors that scan across the delivery box. If the product doesn’t drop, the machine’s coils turn again. And if it still doesn’t vend the system records a failed transaction.

The machine is designed to hold proximity sensors, photoelectric sensors, cables, switches, relays, timers, counters, RFID tags and a variety of other Omron automation products that can be up to eight inches square and about three inches deep, typically packaged in a cardboard box or bag. And with a 41- by 36-inch footprint, it’s best placed close to where the components are needed, which increases production uptime.

Omron On Location dispenses, tracks and logs component parts in real time.
Photo: Omron.

Each machine’s inventory is logged in real time online at, where manufacturers track machine usage by product and authorized user, and access reports with graphing options. The system uses a web-based custom software provided by St. Catharines, Ont.-based Kane’s. All machine activity and logged information resides on its servers.

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