Supply chains: The pinnacle of supply

Posted on 6 Feb 2013 by The Manufacturer

Apex Supply Chain Technologies is defining the future of how companies manage their supply chains and receive goods. The company provides vending solutions for the supply of goods, from PPE to engineering components, which allows for easy access by shop floor staff.

But it isn’t just the usability and convenience which benefits Apex’s customers. The Apex model provides a scalable hardware and software solution which integrates simply with suppliers. By doing so the system can greatly reduce the workload required for ordering and allows suppliers to automatically replenish goods as and when they required. This means that purchases are based on true demand rather than forecasts and wastage is minimised.

Apex understands that its customers want a dependable solution that delivers an impact quickly. Great care is therefore taken to get things right first time. In recent years Apex has deployed more than 20,000 industrial vending machines, and expect to more than double this number during 2013.

Apex Supply Chain Technologies is a sponsor of Automate UK which takes place on February 26. For more information visit

Two companies that have implemented Apex vending and storage solutions are radiator manufacturer Stelrad and medical device manufacturer Bespak. The Manufacturer asked the people involved in the implementation of Apex’s machines to share their experiences.


Stelrad started using the Apex vending machines at the beginning of November 2012 when it purchased three machines. The company uses the vending machines primarily for the storage and dispensing of personal protection equipment (PPE).

The impetus behind the introduction of the vending machines was cost reduction, but also accountability.

“We have 280 employees and we found that we couldn’t accurately record what was being given out for PPE and we found that there was a large amount of wastage and overuse,” says Neil Land, health and safety manager, Stelrad. “We are spending excessive amounts per year on PPE and have targeted spend to reduce considerably.”

Each employee at Stelrad has been allocated with personal identification and pin numbers which are used to record every time somebody interacts with a machine and records what was dispensed. The back end operating system allows managers to restrict what is available to whom and to set maximum amounts available per user per day.

“So far we have been very pleased with the Apex devices and are currently targeting a 25% reduction in stock use,” says Mr Land. “They have also provided us with top customer service as well.”

Another factor for Stelrad was that the system allowed them to identify instances of sub-standard PPE where an employee was requiring several items per day when the expectation was that they would only need one. In at least one instance it was revealed that there was more suitable equipment available for that particular job function.

“That has meant a further cost saving created by using the right equipment for the right role,” says Land.

The Apex Supply Chain Edge 5000 vending machine is perfect for storing and supplying PPE and other products within close proximity to the user
The Apex Supply Chain Edge 5000 vending machine is perfect for storing and supplying PPE and other products within close proximity to the user

“So far we have been very pleased with the Apex devices and are currently targeting a 25% reduction in stock use. They have also provided us with top customer service” – Neil Land, health and safety manager, Stelrad


Bespak, which operates a clean room for the manufacture of its medical equipment, introduced Apex Vending solutions four months ago primarily for storage and dispensing of PPE. The logic behind the introduction was to put the items closer to where they were required while still being able to regulate use.

When the company first trialed an Apex Supply Chain solution, it was doubtful that the system would offer any savings in terms of usage reduction. After the implementation of the vending and storage machines, usage of PPE equipment dropped somewhere between 30%-40% with a saving of close to £50,000 per year.

Adrian Easter of Haley Group, which supplies Bespak with its PPE equipment and replenishes the machines, says the vending systems also helped improve efficiency at Bespak.

“What vending does is change mindsets,” says Mr Easter. “It makes people question whether they actually need to carry out a particular task and take a particular item from the machine. In addition, the operators no longer have to go to the central technical stores so they are not walking about as much which means more time spent in the clean room and more time working.”

The Apex trajectory system is linked directly to Haley and provides information about usage, stock requirements and any high levels of demand. Hayley is then able to tailor its replenishment cycle accordingly and Bespak is able to verify orders against the usage recorded by the cloud-based software platform.

Matthew Mayes of Bespak said the company attempted to introduce other vending solutions to the business around 3 years ago but the implementation failed. By comparison, Mr Mayes says the Apex system has already been deemed far superior to previous machines.

“The flexibility is amazing. It allows you full access and control to monitor and change the system at any time,” says Mr Mayes.

“These machines are so varied and versatile that the company has benefited by being able to dispense any size object without being governed by the machines capabilities. The process was so simple in three key steps of review, configure and install and that is exactly what happened. Job done!”