by Ben Savage
I have to disagree with the fortune that came from my fortune cookie last night.
Now, if you’re looking for a way to ensure that your office vending machine always gives you your quarter back, I can’t help you. Money is dirty and the coin mechanism is one of the most likely parts to break on a vending machine.
But if you think of change in the sense of doing something new, then vending machines can change. When I look at a vending machine I don’t see something that dispenses snacks. I see a device I can use to control who gets something. I can control that access via money, or via software that grants specific users specific permissions. With that perspective, there’s a lot of change that can happen in vending machines.
Breaking out of the box
I’ve spent most of my career thinking about vending or vending-like devices as a way to compress the time and space it takes for people to get the things they need. We can do this by putting those items in proximity to where they will be used. Then we can combine proximity with control.
Traditional vending devices are great for managing supplies and materials when a high level of control is needed. To broaden the spectrum, Apex has also created solutions that aren’t at all like traditional vending machines, with no box and greater visibility of items.
How friction comes into play
The combination of control and proximity results in the ability to create or reduce what we call “friction.” Apex defines friction as how easy or hard it is to get an item.
At one end of the spectrum is controlled materials or parts, like high-cost drill tips. They may require verification that a user has the correct permissions and that they have not already consumed their allotment.
At the opposite end of the spectrum might be Sharpies – everyone needs them, but they aren’t so critical that you need to restrict them to specific people or control the quantities.
What problems do you have that could be solved by changing the friction of access to your Things?