A brief look at the history of vending machine technologies

Posted on 25 Oct 2013 by Tim Brown
The Apex Supply Chain Edge 5000 vending machine is perfect for storing and supplying PPE and other products within close proximity to the user

Vending machines — what the industry calls “automated retail stores” — have become so ubiquitous that they’re easily taken for granted. Can you remember a time when, for example, you couldn’t drop some change into a nearby machine and get a cool beverage?

Vending machines — what the industry calls “automated retail stores” — have become so ubiquitous that they’re easily taken for granted. Can you remember a time when, for example, you couldn’t drop some change into a nearby machine and get a cool beverage?

Although the concept of the automatic vendor dates back millennia, some of the vending technology we have come to expect today isn’t as old as you might think.

The infographic below reveals a number of highlights in the advancement of vending machine technology over the last 2,000 years — from dispensers of sacred water through the first refrigerated consumer-goods units to automatic airport kiosks that vend MP3 players and other higher-priced technologies.

Automated vending has extended out of consumer retail and into the industry, too, with industrial dispenser systems that offer companies easy-access, foolproof inventory management control. Check out two of the best industrial automation companies: Grainger and Apex Supply Chain

Although the UK doesn’t have the machine density of Japan — where estimates say you can find one vending machine for every 23 people — it is rapidly catching up, spurred on by new technologies and creative uses of vending machines. The infographic shows the progression of vending machine technology only to the present day, but that progression will surely continue into the future.

What weird, wild, wonderful things do you expect to see in the vending machine industry in the coming decades? 

A brief history vending infographic.
A brief history vending infographic.