PPE vending? It ticks so many customer boxes…

When we introduced our cashless payment system, MiZiP, we illustrated its features and benefits in the context of the impact it could have in monitoring and controlling drinks consumption.

MiZiP was developed for those who wished to use advanced software functions, such as bonuses, loyalty programs, happy hours, traceability of all transactions and so on, and were looking for a full, optional system that included all these functions without the need to purchase additional interfaces.

MiZiP ‘did what it said on the tin’ so effectively that our customers began to wonder if the technology might ‘have legs’ in areas other than catering…

North West Vending approached us recently with an unusual proposition.  A long standing customer of NWV, Glen Dimplex, had several issues in respect of the way it controlled the issue of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment, such as ear defenders, gloves and so on). A chain of events led to a meeting between NWV MD Mike Cowley and Spontex Workwear boss Gary Sanders. An idea emerged: why not to use vending machines to dispense PPE products? They wanted our help, and we were pleased to provide it.

‘They use a lot of gloves at Glen Dimplex’, Gary said, ‘and they wanted more control over issue and traceability; over who’s taking the gloves, and who isn’t. There are five-hundred people on site, but there was no real record of those vital transactions. We came up with the idea of using vending machines, because they can be programmed to record every transaction.’

Glen Dimplex’s ‘main driver’ was Health & Safety. The company manufactures leading consumer brands such as Dimplex, Morphy-Richards, Stoves, Belling and Roberts and staff work with sharp metal. Unprotected hands are easily injured and – a sign of the times – personal injury litigation is now an issue for them, as it is for all UK businesses.

Any workplace in which the issue of safety equipment is not recorded leaves itself vulnerable to claims.

‘From the point of view of Health & Safety, if there’s an accident and there is no irrefutable evidence that correct protection has been issued, there’s a problem… The vending solution provides unimpeachable data and therefore a transparent audit trail’, said Gary. ‘We can see clearly who took supplies, from where and when.’

Samba Classic 3


At Glen Dimplex, the vending solution is delivered by four N&W Samba machines, which are refilled twice weekly. ‘We specified top-of-the-range Sambas because we wanted to be future proof’ Mike said. ‘The Sambas are factory-loaded with the latest version of N&W’s MiZip. The whole package from N&W and especially their support was great; in fact a six-week trial became an eight-month trial. N&W had everything we needed in place for us. They had the hardware, the software, the technology and, to be honest, the people, especially Steve Dolman, with the patience to work with us!  It was all so new to us. We’d used aspects of MiZip before, but this took us to another level.’

Steve Dolman, our Training Manager*, recalls the steep ascent up the learning curve with pride: ‘we intended a limited field-trial but we ended up finessing the system over a period of several months’, he said. It’s not that there was a problem with the MiZip software – in fact, the opposite was true…

‘The customer kept saying, ‘well, it if can do that, could it do this too?said Steve, ‘so off we’d go again, taking the capabilities of the software system to untested levels and making it work.’

The information collected by MiZip, as staff use Samba machines to access PPE equipment, can be analysed in numerous ways: management can isolate ‘sales’ by departments, job function, product, individuals and so on. Bosses can see at a glance who’s using what, when. Personnel are issued with a plastic card, which facilitates access to the equipment they need, via the vending machines. The company has the option of expanding the system in the future. Using the same cards (and the same ‘brain’), they could control and monitor access to buildings, or provide cashless payment facilities in the work’s canteen… The cards could even be used for the purpose of staff ‘clocking’ on and off duty…

Not bad for ‘vending machine’ technology!

Glen Dimplex is enjoying the benefits that greater control over the issue of PPE equipment provides. Expenditure can now be allocated amongst almost 40 departments and anomalies easily identified. ‘Glen Dimplex simply didn’t have that information before’, Gary said.

Additionally, the company is looking forward to the tangible benefits that may accrue in the medium term, in the form of reduced insurance premiums. ‘Thanks to this system, whenever there’s an accident in the future, there’ll be an audit trail’ Mike said. ‘I’d like to think that because of that, spurious personal injury claims will become less of an issue and let’s hope there’ll be a positive impact on insurance premiums.’

It’s an interesting one: vending machines aren’t only for eating and drinking – that’s food for thought, isn’t it?

Read More About MiZip here.