Can you imagine going to grab office or cleaning supplies and not going to a dusty, spider-filled closet? Instead, these everyday necessities can be gathered from vending machines, dolling out supplies via employee identification card access, only to approved employees.

Redlands moved to such a system, and it became the largest such installation of supply vending machines in the country. And it cost the City nothing. Redlands has teamed-up with Fastenal to use the vending machine supply cabinets for many of its employee needs.

The new system eliminated the outdated computers and rows of dusty shelves filled with inventory at the City’s warehouse on Park Avenue. In their place stand 42 state-of-the-art vending machines designed to dispense safety gear, fasteners, fittings and other items City workers need to do their jobs.

The City Council approved a contract with the company in May.  Under the terms of the agreement, the City pays nothing for the installation, maintenance and stocking of the machines and only pays for the inventory it uses –  at the time it is dispensed. Fastenal maintains and replaces inventory as it is needed. In addition, the City receives Fastenal’s bulk discount pricing on inventory from a variety of suppliers.

Completed in mid-August, this fully automated warehouse is the first of its kind in the nation.

“In the past, everything was done manually – ordering, receiving, counting, reporting – but we simply didn’t have the resources to do it all efficiently and effectively,” said Purchasing Services Manager Dana Abramovitz, who used to spend an hour or two each day managing inventory and handing out supplies at the store. “Now all of these processes are automated, giving us more time to focus on serving the city and taxpayers.”
The warehouse used to serve a choke-point for City projects. Its operating hours were limited to just four hours per day, four days per week. Now, the stores can be accessed at any time of any day, improving flexibility for the City’s employees.

Currently, more than 150 city employees are authorized to use the store. To retrieve needed supplies, they simply approach one of the vending machines, enter an employee ID, and make a product selection. If the transaction is authorized, the item is dispensed and the transaction details flow into the system’s reporting website, where authorized personnel can track real-time inventory and usage data.

As the City has reduced its budget, staff has also been reduced across most departments, yet workload has continued to increase. Automating the City’s supply store is part of the City’s efforts to accomplish more with less and maximize every taxpayer dollar.