The Definitive Guide to Tool Vending Machine Styles

Industrial inventory and tool management has become a staple in manufacturing and across industries like construction, healthcare, and power generation. In fact, a market report from Grandview Research estimates that the market for industrial vending machines will grow by almost 10% in the next 6 years. Now that we’ve had a taste for the productivity, efficiency and financial gains from using technology to manage and track inventory usage, the old “pen and paper” method won’t cut it anymore.

With higher demand comes more innovation – more styles and technologies for implementing a tool management system than ever before. Here, we help break down all the styles of inventory and tool vending machines, and when to use each one.


Tool Lockers

One of the most popular styles of industrial vending machines is the locker. Usually comprising of 10 or more small doors, the locker is a simple machine where a tool is placed behind an access-controlled door. A user must badge into the vending machine software, like CribMaster’s ATR. This is usually accessed by a computer screen on the vending machine, to be given access to an item. This style is great when you want to vend differently sized items in one machine, and work really well for bulk boxes of PPE, accessories or other small supplies.

Because of the simplicity of the technology, tool lockers are a great choice if you’re looking for an entry-level vending machine at an easy price point.

Coil Vending

The original vending machine will look familiar to what you see at a rest stop or office building. No surprises that it’s another of the most popular choices for single-item dispensing, and projected to maintain it’s popularity over the next 6 years. You’ll be confined to smaller items with a coil machine, and you’ll want ask your supplier about accessories to keep differently-sized items properly fitted into the rotating coils.

A coil vending machine is what’s commonly called “high security” because only one item is accessible at a time. And, like a locker-style, a coil machine is often available in an simplified entry-level model.


Carousel machines are a great choice when you need to fit a lot into a small space. Using central motors to spin large “pie bins” around, a carousel machine gives users access to just the individual “pie slice” they requested. Carousels are ideal for small or thin items – larger items, like tools, may use up too many pie bins, cutting down on the available space.

Carousels are a popular choice for issuing single-item, one-time-use PPE like gloves, earplugs, or safety glasses. And, since these machines are designed for vertical storage, they are a great option for industrial environments with limited floor space. In fact, the CribMaster ProStock measures at only 9 square feet on the bottom!

RFID Tool Tracking

Those who need tool tracking will need to look at RFID machines to get a deeper understanding of how materials and tools move through a facility. RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, uses special signals between RFID tags and readers to give more detailed information about where items are located.

RFID is a more expensive option, and requires more design and skill to install, but is an excellent choice for industries like aerospace, defense contracting, or power generation where a lost tool can cause production to come to a halt due to safety regulations.

RFID is also a great choice for those looking to fully automate a tool crib. Passive RFID portals, like the CribMaster’s AccuPort, will track items coming and going from the tool crib in real-time.

Weight-Based Scales

Weight sensing technology is rising in popularity because it’s so simple to replenish inventory. In this type of vending machine, inventory is placed – usually in bulk cartons – onto a sensor that is pre-programmed with the unit weight of the items. Then, a user just grabs what they need and the system can identify how many items were taken by the change in weight.

Weight-sensing machines aren’t for those who need precise details on tool usage and inventory levels. These machines are designed to ensure that you never have stockouts. Most tool vending software can automatically re-order inventory once it reaches a certain level.

Weight-sensing machines are ideal for quick-turn, high volume, inexpensive items. Think wipes, washers, and scrapers. They’re one of the fastest machines to use from both sides of the supply chain, and depending on the materials and machine type, can be an affordable option.

POU Kiosk & Barcode Scanning Storeroom Solutions

Industrial barcode scanners can help turn a traditional tool crib into a more modern and efficient spacethat drives productivity and supports the production floor. Mobile scanners allow tool crib attendants to move around the space easily and check inventory in and out almost instantly. Barcode scanners work best when paired with a computer with inventory management software installed, like CribMaster’s CM Client, to track usage based on scans.

Barcode scanners are one of the best storeroom solutions for managing a large, centralized tool crib. Many manufacturers will pair a POU Kiosk system in the storeroom with tool vending machines on the floor for fast, on-the-go dispensing of PPE, accessories and supplies.

Hybrid Models

Often times, you can combine two technologies into one machine to efficiently address different needs and inventory types. For example, CribMaster’s ProLock with Scales adds weight-sensing scales behind locker doors.  These are often customized solutions, so make sure you look for an inventory management partner that will work with you to design and develop a solution that meets your unique needs.


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