Like all machinery and equipment, vending machines are susceptible to failure or performance issues. While some parts of the machinery are pretty complex and need expert handling, most of them are easy to maintain with low technical skills. In other words, timely DIY maintenance of vending machines can keep the downtime to a minimum.
Meant-Time-Between-Failures (MTBF) is a crucial measure that defines the productivity and uptime of machines. The longer the MTBF is, the better the utilization of the machine will be. When the MTBF is low, however, it is not just a question of machine utilization. Unplanned downtime can impact a vending business at several levels.
Impact on revenue and competition
The point of value creation in the vending business is the vending machine. When it is out of action, consumers cannot buy from it. This translates to a direct loss of revenue. Frequent outage means that the vending machine is standing idle. Suppose your competitors have placed machines in the same location. In that case, your revenue will start flowing into the hands of your competition. This allows your competition to price higher and earn more per machine.
Vending machines are capital equipment. Businesses invest in them and recover the capital over the machine’s life. An idle machine will result in a longer duration to recover the capital employed. Unrecovered capital could bite you harder if your business has multiple machines installed in different locations. The higher the number of transactions, the quicker is your RoCE (Returns on Capital Employed). Ensuring that the machine does not go out of service is essential to achieve this milestone faster.
Cost of upkeep
Machines that fail frequently need constant investment in maintenance and upkeep. The failure could be because of several reasons, including user abuse, ambient operating conditions, lack of proper preventive maintenance or even ageing equipment. Getting the machine back up and running will require investment in parts, consumables, and time of skilled personnel.
Lost customer base
Customers who cannot transact with your machine when they are out cold will look out for nearby alternatives. If a competitor’s machine is available, they will use that machine. When this happens frequently enough, the end-user will eventually start walking straight to the machine they know will work for sure. Over time, frequent outages of your vending machine will lose its customer base.
The loss of trust from partners
The businesses where you place your machines are your partners. They have chosen to share access to their customer base with your vending business. Hence, they will expect your vending machines to deliver the best experience for the end customer. If they realize that some vending machines serve their customers better than others, they will want to do more business with them than those that are always out of action.
Causes of downtime
A vending machine under repair can do more damage than just losing revenue from a few transactions. This can be easily avoided by taking necessary corrective actions. To take such steps, however, it is required to understand what causes the failure of vending machines. Some of those reasons are discussed below:
- Machine repairs
All types of machinery experience wear and tear during their operations. Vending machines are no exception to this. Moving components, like the dispensing mechanism, can experience friction-related damages. Electronic components might fail due to power surges. Even simple mechanisms like doors in the collection tray can rust over time. Used machines may come with parts that are past their useful life. User abuse can also lead to repairs that can bring down a good machine.
- Stocking issues
Another common cause of vending machine downtime is the problems due to poor stacking. Products that come in bags, like potato chips, are a good example. The bags tend to get stuck in the side rails between coils or under the coils. A candy bar on the metal coil can jam two bars and render the whole line useless. A common mistake that most operators make is not checking each product for a successful vend after stocking.
- Site conditions
Vending machines that store beverages or other refrigerated products are vulnerable to ambient conditions. Too much exposure to the sun might overload the refrigeration compressor. A dusty environment can clog up the air circulation system and choke the refrigeration system. Poor flooring can also result in the machine tipping over. Chocolate bars tend to melt in hot conditions and get stuck in the machine. These are examples of how ambient conditions can cause vending machine failures.
Preventing unplanned downtime in vending machines
Regular preventive maintenance can reduce machine outages significantly. Using the right parts can help you increase MTBF. Operating the machine to specifications can reduce failures due to overloading or mishandling. Ensuring the availability of stock can eliminate instances of idling machines.
Our experts at Vendnet can help you with technical inputs on maintaining a well-oiled fleet of vending machines. We can help you find the right parts and consumables that extend the life of your machines. If you would like help solving frequent machine failures, talk to us at 1-800-833-4411.