The First Industrial Vending Patent Awarded on April 27, 1993


MASON, OH, April 27, 2017 — The first industrial vending machines were used to automatically distribute tools and other items used in the manufacturing process for the Ford Motor Company in 1990. Moving light years beyond the traditional world of candy, snack and beverage vending, these early hardwired, pre-Internet machines have morphed into today’s Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled solutions. Nearly 200,000 of industrial vending devices have been deployed around the world for tens of thousands of companies.

“The need for companies to improve productivity and decrease costs has only increased in urgency since the first industrial vending devices were deployed nearly 25 years ago,” said Kent Savage, founder & CEO of Apex Supply Chain Technologies®. “The technology has evolved significantly in this time. And to meet the changing needs of companies in an increasingly global economy, it has been expanded to many new use cases and new industries.”

Savage is widely viewed as the founder of the industrial vending industry, having applied for the first related patent in 1991. In fact, April 27, 1993, the day United States 5,205,436 was granted to Kent Savage for his “Machine Tool Dispensing Device and System,” is considered the industry’s inception.

Innovations Lay Foundation for Industry
While the industrial vending industry has evolved significantly since 1993, its path has been well-defined by several milestones, including Savage’s patent. And the fuel for this innovation was first ignited by a moment of inspiration.

  • 1987: During a trip to Japan, Kent Savage is inspired by Lean manufacturing concepts and first considers applying traditional vending technology to industrial processes.
  • 1989: As founder and CEO of Electronic Merchandising Systems, Savage begins collaborating with the Ford Motor Company to jointly develop an automatic dispenser to distribute tools and other items used in the manufacturing process.The resulting system included a dispensing device that was hardwired to a controller physically located at each Ford plant. A DOS-based computer was used to process data from the system to track inventory levels and to ensure stocking would take place in a timely manner.
  • 1990: Electronic Merchandising Systems focuses on applying vending technology to the retail sale and distribution of products. This leads to Savage’s first invention — a film and camera vending machine developed for Eastman Kodak Company.
  • 1991: Realizing the full potential for industrial vending, Savage applies for a patent of his “machine tool dispensing device and system,” and incorporates Vertex Technologies to develop this technology.
  • 1993: The industrial vending industry is founded on April 27 as S. Patent 5,205,436 is awarded to Kent Savage for his machine tool dispensing system.
  • 1994-1997: The industry emerges quickly, with several Vertex competitors either incorporating or deploying their first installations of industrial vending technology within five years of Savage’s patent.
  • 2001: As Vertex begins moving its software components online, to take advantage of the new opportunities presented as the Internet was coming into widespread use, it is acquired by SupplyPro.
  • 2006: Kent Savage founded Apex to create, develop and market native cloud-based industrial vending systems. Of the 18 patents associated with Kent Savage, 11 of them have been developed with Apex.

Innovating Today & Tomorrow
Since the early 90s, industrial vending has shifted from being a cutting-edge idea to become a well-established, global best practice. Today’s customers and partners range from small, independent companies to the ranks of global manufacturing giants, innovative distribution organizations as well as countless service providers and other forward-thinking organizations.

To meet customers’ continually changing needs, companies including Apex have extended this technology beyond helical dispensing devices. Apex has found use cases for its sensor-driven technologies such as its smart bin technology for inventory replenishment as well as its smart locker solutions for mobile asset management. Savage’s company is also applying what it has learned in the industrial space to help retail, restaurant and foodservice companies with consumer-facing applications like mobile order pickup as well as automated click and collect applications. 

To learn more about Apex, visit

Apex Supply Chain Technologies is the world’s leading provider of automated dispensing systems for use in a variety of applications and industries. Our devices track billions of transactions to help thousands of customers worldwide benefit from self-serve automation at the point-of-need. With world headquarters in Mason, Ohio, Apex has offices in Australia, France, Germany, Poland, the UK and Latin America. More information is at the Apex website, as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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