The Business

When the store moves onto the factory floor

Text: Johan Croon
Foto: Risto
October 20, 2023

What happens when a retail store selling work clothes, tools and personal equipment moves onto the factory floor? Efficiency goes up and frustrations go down, says Timo Kaartinen, head of Smart Services at Alligo Finland.

How the Smart Service vending machines work

  • The machine is placed in the customer’s factory.
  • The contents are tailored for each customer.
  • The machine is activated with an access card.
  • The shelf with the desired product lights up green.
  • When an item starts to run out, it is automatically registered. Staff from Alligo then go out and fill it up.
  • A screen displays information about the products.
  • The product is placed in a digital shopping basket and the purchase generates an invoice for the customer.
  • The smart vending machine is connected to Alligo’s business system and generates useful data about the customer’s consumption.

Getting new work supplies through Smart Services is a bit like online shopping. Fast without the frustrating wait for delivery. You search for the product you need, click and order – and the delivery takes place instantaneously. Minutes later you are back at your workstation and can continue working.

“Having a store with the materials that factory employees need is a solution that is made unique and customized for each customer. The various items needed in production will be much more readily available,” says Timo Kaartinen.

Smart Service is a family of solutions that are tailored to the individual customer’s needs. This includes everything from physical installation and offering an array of tools and products, to services such as product control and purchase costs.

“Employees often spend an unnecessary amount of time retrieving and looking for the right stuff. Or, for example, they accidentally take the wrong type of protective gloves and risk injuring themselves. In the worst case, the product is out of stock and they have to spend time ordering and waiting for delivery,” says Kaartinen.

Another big advantage of the intelligent Smart Service system is that it provides increased control for the companies that use it. Both the purchase and use of materials will be significantly easier to keep track of.

“As Alligo takes care of the entire supply chain of items, it means reduced inventory costs, improved productivity and more efficient operations for the customer.”

In order for the solution to be truly smart, the customer’s needs regarding workflow, items and quantities are thoroughly investigated and analyzed.

“We look at where the vending machines should be located for the best accessibility and ensure that the right items are in the machines.”

Marko Hurskainen, factory director at Škoda Transtech Oy, in front of one of the factory's 14 intelligent vending machines.

As each Smart Service solution is always tailored to the customer’s needs, they can vary in both size and complexity. They can consist of one or more smart vending machines, located in different premises, specifically adapted for the type of work carried out in each workplace. Once the installation is done, users are given a quick training session to help get them started.

“It is no more difficult than going to a store and buying a carton of milk. It’s just that this store is located at your workplace and the assortment is exactly what you need to be able to do your job.”

Each vending machine has a display, where employees log in, pick out an item, and the purchase is scanned. The product maintenance and control of the smart vending machines is handled by Alligo. So, if it breaks down, or if an article is about to run out or is not in demand, this is automatically registered with Alligo.

“This data is as important as the product. All data is stored and we continuously generate statistics and reports for the customer so that they have full control over their consumption down to each individual.”