It seems that every time we look, technology continues to reshape the trucking industry. From semi-autonomous trucks to advanced safety systems, advances in technology and automation continue to reshape our industry.
Today, we’ll take a look at new ways technology is advancing how the job gets done in trucking. We’ll start with… vending machine?
Did you ever imagine you might work in a world where you could obtain parts from a vending machine? Sure, it may sound like science fiction, but get ready because soon it will be science fact.
No longer will these ubiquitous machines be purely for soda or snacks, but they will also be used for more advanced industrial applications. Manufacturing and parts supply companies are already installing vending machines in industrial plants. Workers can obtain things like specific tools, safety goggles or even small-scale parts.
One company, Fastenal, has created a shipping container store, of sorts. The container is modified to accommodate computer equipment, is completely secure and houses specific tools. For workers coming and going, the container is insulated and air conditioned or heated, as necessary.
Management and Procurement
What this idea comes down to is parts management. Trucking technicians and other fleet workers are essentially widget managers. Bringing the parts store to them is all about more efficient procurement and management.
While initially parts vending machines might be used for high value items, customer demand has driven the evolution of these new systems to include more low-cost items. The last thing a fleet needs is to run out of items they use the most.
While you can generally get parts delivered from an out-of-state supplier within a day or two, imagine having them right there, at your fingertips, ready to be dispensed from a machine as needed. The fact is, this technology has the potential to revolutionize how fleets get work done in the shop.
But how exactly would a parts vending machine work for the trucking industry? Imagine a heavy truck business being able to access common items like belts, hoses or bearings all through the simple tap of a button on the front of a vending machine.
Of course, something like an entire suspension or transmission kit couldn’t be wedged into a vending machine, but individual parts needed for bigger jobs could certainly be included, from rotors to drums to windshield wipers and LEDs.
Truck stops would also be a logical place to place parts vending machines. Imagine a 24/7 pod or vending machine where a trucker could easily grab him or herself a headlight, diesel additive or quart or two of oil.
Rather than using a vending machine the old-fashioned way, I.E. with money or coins, these advanced models could use a magnetic swipe card. Parts obtained can be tracked by department or specific use case.
Through a cloud-based database, inventory levels can be tracked and alerts can be sent out when a certain amount of stock becomes low. Additionally, different machines can stock different product, depending on the location and application.
For those who are wondering how practical this is, consider that a decade ago, purchasing truck parts online seemed far-fetched. Today, Amazon does almost $2 billion in sales from truck parts alone.
Of course, putting parts into a vending machine isn’t going to answer all the questions or solve all the problems, but it will go a long way to solving the waiting game that so many technicians play. To not see the huge potential in this concept is akin to not seeing the forest for the trees.