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Case Study: Controlling PPE Costs Through KeepStock Vending

5/6/24

Overview

A manufacturing company in the HVAC industry implemented Grainger KeepStock® Inventory Management point-of-use vending machines to help save about six figures annually in costs of gloves and safety glasses.

About the Customer

GD Copper USA opened in 2014 as the first US-based plant for Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, whose home base is in China. The 500,000-square-foot plant based in Pine Hill, Alabama, employs more than 300 people and manufactures smooth copper tubing for air conditioning and refrigeration units.

The Challenge

Managing PPE was a challenge for the first couple of years the plant was open, said KC Pang, executive vice president of GD Copper USA. Employees would go into their warehouse to grab cut-resistant gloves and safety glasses without any controls. There were no restrictions on how many gloves an employee could obtain, no chain of custody for managing the distribution and no tracking of what was taken. It resulted in a lack of cost controls for PPE, and it increased the chances workers could use the wrong PPE for their role.

The Solution

Getting a handle on PPE management is a perfect job for Grainger's KeepStock inventory management program. Solutions range from web-based, customer-managed inventory tools to point-of-use industrial vending solutions for anytime access. Grainger’s account manager saw vending machines as a possible solution to GD Copper’s problem.

“I think in 2016, our account manager talked to me about the vending program,” Pang said. “We started looking into the program and then we started to roll out a program in 2017.”

Employees scan an ID badge to access authorized items. The amount and type of each item that an employee can have are linked to their ID, and KeepStock vending machines offer detailed, real-time reporting on usage.

The initial installation included two vending machines, which are electronically linked to employee badges for easy tracking and controls. Those controls are flexible, and GD Copper regularly adjusts the PPE allotment that employees can obtain from the vending machines.

Pang said the implementation went well, especially because Grainger's account manager and dedicated resources were alongside to help ensure a smooth transition.  One unique challenge was related to GD Copper's location. Pine Hill is in rural southwest Alabama and when the vending machines were first installed, the location did not have broadband internet access, which limited the effectiveness of the tracking. Grainger developed a temporary fix by connecting to cellular networks, and eventually the facility hardwired the machines to the internet.

Two more machines have been added since the initial rollout, and Grainger sends an on-site service representative (OSR) into the GD Copper facility once a week to ensure that the machines are fully stocked and operational. The OSR noted that one of the machines was not being used as much as the other three because it was in a more obscure location, so it was moved to a more convenient location and now performs on par with the others.

The OSR also makes sure the facility’s 12 first aid kits are fully stocked.

The Results

Implementing monitoring and controls through KeepStock vending machines has made a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. Pang said that since the program was instituted in 2017, the company has saved between $80,000 and $100,000 per year on gloves, safety glasses and related PPE.

Conclusion

Pang said that the partnership with Grainger is allowing the company to manage safety very well. The company's next step in its relations with Grainger, he said, is to explore environmental sustainability solutions, specifically around waste oil and solid waste disposal. Through its service providers, Granger can help with waste management assessments and related solutions while also offering a broad range of products designed for hazardous material management and hazardous waste reduction. 

Grainger KeepStock solutions are subject to customer eligibility and agreements. Actual results and savings will vary based on many factors, including but not limited to size of company, number of locations and employees, scope and nature of company’s needs, and extent of company’s recognition and implementation of recommendations made by Grainger.

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The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.