How to Maintain and Service a Vending Machine

vmNow that all the intense, attention-requiring work for finding, getting, and figuring out locations is done, all that’s left is being patient and waiting for the long-term payoffs to come in. Only regular service and maintenance is required to keep things running smoothly, and making sure you go through it right.

Timing is Everything

Unless your machine is doing SUPER well, or has some other unique quality that requires otherwise, you don’t want to service them every day, or even close to that often. It’s simply a waste of your time which could be spent elsewhere, not to mention the are owner/manager/people have to deal with you more often (believe me, as someone in retail, having to see someone from elsewhere coming by unexpectedly often gets annoying). Simply put, it’s just not ideal. What is ideal is figuring out the exact right timing to be able to stop by the machine as least often as possible while keeping proper stock rotation/refilling.

Generally speaking, the first visit or two should be after 2 weeks (for typical machines, perhaps even 1 week depending) and following intervals during the beginning couple months. After an idea of sales rates, refining inventory, and other initial perceptions are figured out, we can make predictions on the ideal waiting time. For most machines, this should be about a month at a time, and that IS probably the most you want to wait no matter what (one still needs to consider expired product, and one never knows what will happen after such a period of time). If one still isn’t sure, there’s nothing wrong with estimating low; say your estimations reveal 25 days to be the best time, maybe show up every 20-23rd day instead for now just to make sure. Once you’ve confirmed that, yes, it can go a few more days safely (or that your suspicions are confirmed and that it needs more frequent refilling), you can confidently set your official regular scheduled visits into the calendar.

The Service

vm1Simply focusing on the actions of refilling the machine and collecting profits, there’s little to nothing complicated about this part of the job. So long as you bring the things you need to and walk in with a smile (it helps to bridge the comfortability gap and communicate with you and the employees in each area), each service should run quick and smooth. Just make sure to keep these and/or any other items that help for your personal machine handling:

  • Keys for the lock/s
  • Tablet/Files for Recording Sales and Inventory
  • Bags/boxes/carts of Vending Machine Product for Refill, either measured/calculated out for carrying in or in-bulk in truck to retrieve and fill at the moment
  • Zip Lock or other Bags, for Money/Coins and/or to transfer Expired Product (useful with candy machines)
  • Cleaning products, window cleaner and/or others
  • Paper Towels for wiping
  • Spare Parts
  • Wrench, screwdriver, and other tools useful in repairs
  • Electronic Weighing Scale, optional and for bulk machines to weigh current and/or expired product
  • Back Pack for holding equipment/items or expired product

There are a few exceptions to consider and watch out for of course.

Maintaining/Repairs

Very rarely you’ll find out about issues with the machine via random, intense moments, such as it suddenly breaking down; or should I so, more accurately, rarely SHOULD you. Except for the occasionally potential electrical issue (which is out of your hands, and likely an issue of the location as opposed to the machine. If it does tie back to machine, likely you’ll need to contact someone yourself to fix, supposing you weren’t involved in that construction aspect yourself), all problems can be checked very simply in person on each of your service visits. One can easily get an overall idea with a simple test.

vm2Take a coin/s (preferably marked to identify later), pop it in, and turn/make a selection, or a couple if servicing a large-variety machine. Did it take the coin, if you have a turning knob (candy machines) did it move smoothly, did it give you exactly what was asked for, did the depositing function not turn, perhaps OVER turn? Take note of things like these, or anything else that may seem off. Simply trying out the machine like this is the best way to see if it’s running smooth or if there’s something that could be wrong; and if the latter seems true, it’s often easy to find out WHERE from it.

Some problems might simply rely on a tightening or loosening of bolt, wheel, or other mechanic; in which case having some Vaseline and Wrenches in your pack, as suggested, can be helpful. Whereas this can be quick remedied on site, if there have been any overly worn, damaged, or tampered (however it may have happened) parts that need full replacement, one should easily be able to find affordable replacement parts from an authorized dealer even on sites like Ebay and Craiglist. Just ensure that 1: as you research these, note whether it’d be more convenient to actually buy the part (or, if this seems to happen quite often with the machine, ‘parts’) or just replace it completely (which isn’t so bad, the old machine can be sold off, or even kept, for value in its load of replacement parts), and 2: get some respectful yet apologetic signage up on the machine letting others know it’s out-of-order. No matter what, it will take time to get a new part replaced if you don’t already have it in stock, but you need to get it done as fast as possible, not just to maintain sales but reduce the number of customers with the negative connotation of finding your machine broken. Just in case though, if you absolutely want to ensure avoiding too damaging a scenario, can always leave your phone number somewhere on the machine with a sign stating to contact in case there’s any issues.

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Cleaning

The last step to any visit, and very important. Always keep your machine looking clean and presentable, it’s more attractive for drawing in customers and keeping a positive look to those allowing you park it there. The most you can do to keep it from looking and turning into one of those stale, almost-broken-down machines that you probably replaced your machine with earlier, the better. And no one else is going to take the time to do it for you.

vm5There’s often very little that needs doing here. Simply use a good all-purpose cleaner in a spray bottle and inspect the machine, making sure to get any smudges or other stains that may have developed since last time, along with a quick all-over spray-and-swipe. Wipe it down, leave it shiny, and then back home (or to another machine) you go!

You shouldn’t have to worry about any cleaning of the thin and complicated inside parts, any good machine should be tight and keep dust and other things out for that. Though if one wants to do any deep cleaning, they can apply it during any period of repairs that may need doing so as to take advantage and not waste time during other period in opening and taking things apart (and in front of potential customers too, not good).

Safety

Staying safe IS a key issue and concern with your business, as it is with everyday life. For now, there are a few simple things to consider. First, as convenient and time-friendly as it is for the area-owner of the places you keep the machine, going there on an exactly-regular set of days and times may not be the best. So instead of, say, going every fourth Sunday at Noon, try stopping by at vastly different times, and have a range of 2-3 days that you’d show up. Otherwise being too-regular can carry a risk of certain kinds of people noticing the schedule of when a vending machine guy is walking around with extra cash in their pocket. Though if you’d still like to keep things regular, try only checking out the machines in the morning, often safer times of the day for that stuff.

vm4You’ll also need to consider the safety of your machine. Make sure to get some good locks on (the ‘tubular key’ models are supposed to be rather good), there IS the chance some will try to pick them. But ultimately, if it looks like the risk for such practices in that area starts to go up, or the machine has been vandalized or otherwise damaged beyond just a singular freak occasion, the best safety decision is to just find another place to move it to and avoid future issues altogether. At the least, it’s much better financially in the long run.

Svm3ee Also

Vendnet, Maintaining Your Vending Machine Health – a potential site for buying spare parts for repairs, also talks a bit about servicing

How to Maintain Vending Machines – simple instructions on what we talk about here

So long as you keep this up and follow through on a regular schedule, there should be little to no true obstacle keeping your machine from operating smoothly in its happy home.

About Andrew

A graduate in Bachelors of the International Culinary School at the Art Institutes, Andrew Steifer has spent his days obsessing over everything food and drink. While working towards his Wine Certification, he started writing his own Food Truck Blog focused on reviewing all the mobile vendors of Minnesota. Being the first person to stubbornly pursue a blog like this for their newly budding street food scene, it's safe to say Andrew's love of food trucks is almost dangerous, at least to his wallet. He's been writing since 2013, drinking since 2010, and consuming every delicious morsel he can find every chance he gets.