MRO Magazine

Vending system improves parts control

MRO Magazine   

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance Operations Mining & Resources

The Mosaic Company installed a point-of-use (POU) vending system at its potash solution mine in Belle Plaine, SK, in 2006 with the result of increased productivity through reduced product retrieval/travel time, reduced consumption of supplies,...

The Mosaic Company installed a point-of-use (POU) vending system at its potash solution mine in Belle Plaine, SK, in 2006 with the result of increased productivity through reduced product retrieval/travel time, reduced consumption of supplies, and the provision of round-the-clock access to personal protective equipment (PPE).

The 24×7 operation has 30 sites spread over 42 sq km and produces Muriate of Potash (MOP), including fine, standard, coarse, Ag granular, HQ granular, special granular and water softener. The Belle Plaine facility is currently undergoing expansion, and by 2014, Mosaic plans to increase its capacity from 2.8 million tons to 3.5 million tons of white potash per year.

“The demand for potash is expected to increase by at least 20 million tons in the next 10 years,” says Peter Jackson, general manager, Belle Plaine.

The Mosaic facility in Belle Plaine is the largest potash solution mine in the world. Mosaic also produces potash at two other facilities in Saskatchewan, in Colonsay and Esterhazy. The headquarters for the potash business unit is based in Regina.


Mosaic, headquartered in Plymouth, MN, is a producer and marketer of concentrated phosphate and potash, two of the primary nutrients required to grow the food the world needs. Its business engages in every phase of crop nutrition development, from the mining of resources to the production of crop nutrients, feed and industrial products for customers around the globe.

The vending system, sourced from SupplyPro Inc., provided a return on investment within six months after installation. The benefits included savings in manpower costs, which had been 10-15 times the cost of materials. As well, typical 30-45 minute wait times at shift changes were cut down to a few minutes.

Other benefits of installing the point-of-use vending system included the automation of replenishment processes and the ability to capture detailed consumption data.

“From the outset, it was clear SupplyPro had the people skills to make [the project] work. Their products are very versatile and adaptable to our harsh environment,” says Rod Jacob, stores planner for the Belle Plaine facility.

All transactions are automatically tracked to the correct trade/company code and cost centre per user (more than 1,200 users have access to the devices).

New products added to the devices raised the average machine capacity to 82%. There was a 20% increase in SKUs under control, year-over-year, to well over 300. Also, critical parts that have an impact on production time are always available 24×7. In addition, process remediation improved by six to eight times, for savings of over $100,000 per year.

A wealth of data available from each transaction is recorded by a SupplyPro POU dispensing device. The vendor says it continually looks for new opportunities to help expand its client’s understanding of where efficiencies are being gained, where new ones are available, and to provide additional information about those transactions within their facilities, both at the current location and across the enterprise.

SupplyPro implemented a mixed solution of SmartDrawer, SupplyLocker, SupplyBay and SupplyAgent devices to meet the different process rules at both the mining and plant operations at Mosaic. A total of 22 devices were installed initially, including 12 SupplyBay units, five SmartDrawers, one 3×4 SupplyLocker, two SupplyAgent Main units, and two SupplyAgent Auxiliary units.

The POU system is used for dispensing various consumable items, including assorted gloves, batteries, tape, markers, safety glasses and utility knives. It also is used for tracking the take/return of gas and diesel keys.

A total of 350 SKUs are loaded into the devices, with over 400 SKUs defined in the database for expansion. Spend/use of the components is tracked by Trade Code (primary and secondary), Company Code and Work Order.

As a result of the system’s benefits, Mosaic had planned to expand its POU system implementations in 2011.


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Components of the point-of-use system

SupplyPro has installed more than 4,500 point-of-use vending systems in 39 countries. The system includes the following devices.

SmartDrawer: A low-cost automated solution to control, track and manage inventories and critical assets at the point-of-use. The technology allows users to choose the best level of access control and accountability for each application. Compartments can be set for absolute control for single-item dispense and return or high-density part number level management.

SupplyBay Plus: A rugged, industrialized vending system. Engineered for harsh environments, SupplyBay Plus is designed to handle high-volume throughput and provide dispensing for a wide range of industrial tools and supplies.

SupplyLocker: A modular, industrialized locker system. SupplyLocker provides the ability to manage check-out/check-in tooling, loan periods, calibrated instruments, automated lockdown and larger consumable items. Optionally, part number-level control can be implemented for a high-density parts and critical spares management solution.

SupplyAgent: Automated point-of-use cabinet system. SupplyAgent provides compartment-level control and quick access to a wide variety of materials and supplies. It can store a high volume of materials in a very small footprint.


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