Controlling Inventory Securely and Efficiently
Bottled Water with a Vital Objective
Safety in the Workplace

Controlling Inventory Securely and Efficiently

Controlling Inventory Securely and Efficiently

The latest vending machine systems offer companies a cost effective way to distribute fast moving PPE and MRO consumables in the workplace.

Written by Alan Johnson, for TecTorque Winter 2014

Traditionally, the dispensing and control of items such as MRO (Maintenance Repair Operation) supplies, PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) items, spare parts and other indirect materials used in day-to-day operations has been through a traditional store, however today there are many other alternatives.

Increasingly technology is being utilised to automate and control inhouse distribution of these items, with Blackwoods now offering a broad range of solutions; from a variety of standard vendingmachine stock dispensers, through to sophisticated RFID tracking systems.

Craige Bradford, Blackwoods National Manager for Business Services, explains that these electronic solutions offer a wide range of benefits, including increased monitoring via authorisation levels, stock and access limits, consistent product availability and the ability for the stock to be located where usage occurs.

“These systems also offer companies significant cost saving opportunities in inventory management and increased accuracy.”

Bradford said the key benefits are controlling usage and accountability.

“With employees required to scan in to the machine before gaining access to the stock, the computer tracks exactly what they have taken, the quantity, and at what time the transaction took place.”

He said the vending machines can have a positive influence on the behaviour of employees with regard to utilising products from the stores.

“Already we have a number of companies in industries such as mining, aerospace and manufacturing taking advantage of these machines,” he said. Bradford explained that while demand is coming from larger customers at the moment, he said the systems are suitable for any size company that uses high volumes of consumable items and is looking to control usage, avoid waste, hoarding and generally increase efficiency.

“Surprisingly, we have found that many of our larger customers struggle to control their inventory management processes, often providing employees with open access to a whole range of products,” he said.

As a consequence, he says, they have limited visibility of what is going out of the door, who it’s going to, which section of their business is using these products, and when replenishment is required.

“However, with these types of solutions our customers gain full visibility of where usage is occurring going and who is utilising it.”

He said that as well as assisting customers to control their usage and eliminate waste, vending systems are also suitable for customers who are looking to build specific product compliance with their employees.

“We now have a whole range of vending solutions for our customers. It all depends on what is the best fit for them; whether they are looking for high security or more usability where employees have access to a broader range of products with shorter issue time frames.”

As Bradford pointed out, every business has security level requirements for their inventory. “Whether a company requires basic storage and identification so items can be inventoried quickly, low security to control the distribution of inventory, or maximum security for highaccountability tool control among users, we now offer customised storage solutions that provide the proper level of security for any operation.

“For example, we have systems that use RFID technology to monitor and track tool movement when positive tool control is critical.”

He explained that the range of machines goes from the basic “coil” type of vending machine, “which is great for PPE items”, right through to Weigh Station solutions which are typically larger machines with bins and weigh scale technology that measure the quantity of items taken.

He said the machines use sophisticated technology, which can manage consumables, durables, serialised items, kits and assemblies in a completely passive device.

“Using ultra-sensitive, highly accurate scale and bin technology, these machines can be used for easy fast dispensing, and replenishment of bulk items, with no repackaging or tagging required.

“They are also fully configurable for large and small items with up to 140 bins,” he said.

Bradford explained that Blackwoods has partnered with US storage systems and technology provider Cribmaster to offer customers this service solution.

“Cribmaster has the widest range of machines on the market and are supported by sophisticated software packages that can provide over 200 standard reports, plus reports can be tailored to suit individual customer needs.”

“These machines are ideal for all fast moving consumables, and we have a solution to suit almost every product,” he said.

Bradford said the systems are very popular with companies looking to adopt Lean principles within their processes, as they are taking the goods out of the store and positioning them close to the actual point of use.

“In a traditional situation, a person may have to walk to a store room, have a bit of a chat with the storeperson while he is issuing stock, then walk back to his work station.

“From a lean perspective, they might have wasted some time in that whole process, but with these vending machines located at the point of use, a lot of that time is saved and productivity increases.” Bradford also pointed out that with access to these machines normally 24/7, there is the ability to dispense fast moving products after hours.

“The procurement and replenishment processes are also automated with these machines. For example, as a person is taking items out of the machine, the software sends a notice to the relevant servicing branch, which in turn generates a picking slip to replenishment the goods.”

As Bradford explained, this takes away the need for the customer to generate any purchase orders, making the process very efficient and offering productivity improvements.

“We can even provide on-site services to replenish the machines through our own site facilitators,” he said.

Happy customers
Bradford said the machines are very popular with several of Blackwoods national multi-site customers, with the software able to give them a clear consolidated view of what is going through these machines at all their operations.

“For example, a large mining company, which recently rolled these machines out across a number of remote sites, is now able to draw data from everyone of those machines and see what the usage analysis is from each of their operations across the country.”

He said that by utilising the same brand of machine and software, the customer can see who is using what products and how many from one central point in their organisation.

Another large company taking advantage of these latest vending machines is Jetstar, who has recently installed one at its light engineering facility on the edge of Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport.

Ben Knabe, Light Maintenance Manager at Jetstar Engineering, explained that the facility is a large wide-bodied hanger where the airline does all its light maintenance work on its Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 family aircraft.

“The vending system enables us to offer the free issue of all our PPE items, including safety glasses and gloves, plus our regular high use items, such as batteries and tape, to all our staff.

“With this system we can ensure accurate inventory lists,” Knabe said.

He said that previously a lot of these items were available for staff to just take from the shelf.

“The problem was our computer system would often think some were still there, when in fact there was none.”

And with safety a key focus for Jetstar, Knabe said he needed to make sure PPE is always there, and the guys are using it.

“So rather than having to make sure that every piece of PPE they need is booked out of the stores, the guys can simply go and help themselves.

“Now, when an engineer needs PPE or some batteries for his torch, we always have stock for him to use.”

With the Jetstar facility operating 24/7, Knabe said it is important engineers always have access to the system.

“Now they can access the items they need very quickly, without any interaction with a storeman or anything like that.

“With the industry we are in, where a lot of guys can get hurt, having the PPE available all the time is very important, while another benefit, but to a lesser extent, is governance,” he said.

“If an engineer removes a large volume of an item, I could see it on the system and have a little chat to him to see why.”

He said another secondary benefit is pre-approved purchase orders, which cuts out a lot of time for Jetstar’s purchasing department.

“Plus as the system becomes more mature we will be able to see consumable averages per aircraft, and we can budget for that. And for all these items, we have no interaction with our purchasing department at all,” Knabe said.

While the vending system has only been in use for a relatively short period, Knabe said he is very pleased with the system and the service.

“The guys at Blackwoods and Cribmaster have been fantastic; they are great companies to deal with. The installation process went quite seamlessly,” Knabe said.

He said he would recommend the vending machines to other companies.

v “It’s a really good bit of kit,” Knabe concluded.

Back to top

Bottled Water with a Vital Objective

Bottled Water with a Vital Objective

A new bottled water on the market does more than quench a person's thirst, it funds a worthy Indigenous program designed to inspire and empower local youth in outback Australia.

Written by Alan Johnson, for TecTorque Summer 2013

Yaru Water came into being as a result of a family friendship and a shared vision - to unite, share and close the gap of disadvantage of Indigenous communities. Attendees at the program, Indigenous boys and girls, come from all over Australia for up to 12 weeks. Yaru Water is single-origin spring water, bottled at the source, without the use of chemicals.

Yaru Water co-founders Kyle Slabb and Shaun Martin.

Walking through your local supermarket aisles, there appears little difference in the bottles of spring water on offer; however Yaru Spring Water completely dispels that myth - that all bottled water is the same. 

Yaru Water is very different and came into being as a result of a family friendship and a shared vision - to unite, share and close the gap of disadvantage in indigenous communities.

By joining forces and establishing Yaru, (an Indigenous owned spring water company), the Slabbs, (an Indigenous family of Bundjalung heritage), and the Martins, (the family behind the Mount Warning Spring Water Company), have created a vehicle for change.

Together, with proceeds generated from the sale of bottled Yaru Water, the visionaries and brotherhood behind the brand, facilitate indigenous leadership programs, imparting Bundjalung cultural teachings while utilising Mount Warning Spring Water Company's facilities and resources.

Yaru, in partnership with several Indigenous Leadership Organisations, has developed Indigenous Leadership Development and Capacity Building Programs designed for emerging Indigenous leaders. The programs are about leadership development in the context of intentional community development.

Joint Yaru Founder and Director Kyle Slabb said this latest program he is working on only started last year, and is a special one to him, already.

"We have run similar programs before, but we saw a real need for a leadership program, so Yaru Water was developed to support these programs. We had seen a number of Indigenous kids programs offering leadership in a cultural context, all designed to look at kids at risk. This is what we based this program on," he said.

Slabb explained that this program is funded by proceeds from Yaru Water, with no government assistance, though he does admit the program does have a few groups who financially assist them.

"However, we run a pretty lean team here, with only eight of us managing the entire program," he said. 

Program's Goals:

Slabb said the program's main goal is to build capacity around young Indigenous leaders and to expose them to a lot of different situations to be better equipped to be able to take a leadership position in their communities.

"The program is designed to give emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders the confidence to take on these roles."

He said the Leadership Programs are designed to be a platform for exploring cultural identity and spirituality, action/reflection learning, personal and peer mentoring, and practical application in a number of urban, rural and remote contexts.

"The attendees spend a bit of time here, plus they spend some time in the outback in Central Australia and also up into the top end, to Cape York and to remote communities elsewhere to get some experience in different communities. We also take them to urban environments, to the cities. It could be Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, and look at different programs that are happening there and different leadership opportunities."

Slabb said the attendees are aged from around 16 up to 25, and a mix of boys and girls.

"Interestingly, we have had more girls through the program than boys, but only slightly more.  They come from all over Australia for up to 12 weeks, though 8 weeks is the average now."

He said the program runs twice a year at present, plus they host other different groups that also include leadership programs and different cultural programs.

"Already, with this program in its current form, we have had over 200 attendees so far. Plus we have had numerous success stories, with well over 50% of our students going on to engage in leadership positions within their community, and further their studies to build their capacity to take out leadership positions in their community. And not just leadership, we had two young guys on the program last year who had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome since then both of them have not needed their medication.”

(Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.)

"They have gone back to their community and got involved with their education and different areas. Our plan is to expand the program and develop it further into a wider range of communities," Slabb said.

"Part of my role is to inspire and empower local youth in outback Australia, and to facilitate cultural learning between elders and the younger generation to rekindle a passion for traditional occupations." 

Part of the program takes place on the Yaru training facility situated in northern-NSW in the shadows of Wollumbin (Mt Warning), located in Bundjalung country. 

Slabb explained that participants explore Indigenous spirituality and indigenous Australian history (government and community perspectives), and take part in significant, compatible cultural experiences that give a deeper understanding of the richness of a living culture through intentional interaction with the land through cultural practice.

"The program is designed to teach them skill sets that increase their employability in fields such as droving, mustering and horsemanship. We presently have one group from the central desert that travel around on horseback in these very remote communities.  We have a couple of leaders out there working with them and other remote communities," Slabb said.

Living Water

Yaru Water is Australia's first Indigenous bottled water, and is introduced by a family of Bundjalung heritage.

For thousands of years, Slabb said, the Bundjalung people have understood the power and the energy of what flows from their land.

"We have recognised the water to have cleansing properties and to be a source of power and life for our people. We now understand that this life and this power are not meant for just our people, but that we need to share it with others. Our ancestors drank this living water, today we are sharing this precious water, for life, health and abundance to all who thirst."

Slabb said the foundation of the company is based upon a great respect for the land, and explained that the word Yaru means rock in Bundjalung language and encompasses all aspects of life.

"Therefore, from our very beginning, being environmentally responsible and sustainable has been a priority. Our products are certified carbon neutral which means we remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as our company puts in, cancelling out all emissions created during the lifecycle of a bottle of Yaru Water. We do this by purchasing 'carbon offsets' which finances green energy projects like wind farms or solar parks and drives further investment into clean technologies. Buying carbon offsets not only cancels out our carbon footprint, but it helps transform society to become more green and efficient. It helps make clean energy more affordable and helps reduce future greenhouse gas emissions to make up for our energy use today," he said.

BFA Approved

As Slabb points out, not all bottled water is created equal.

"There are some bottled waters that are exclusively sourced from municipality water, while various others are sourced from a variety of springs, mixed and bottled at a bottling plant far away from the source, at times combined with municipality water. What these waters have in common is an assortment of chemicals added during the bottling and sterilisation process and a close likeness to tap water.

"However, Yaru Water is single-origin spring water, bottled at the source, without the use of chemicals. "This is why Yaru Water has been approved by the Australian Biological Farmers Association (BFA), Australia's leading organics industry body. This classification means we are compliant with the Australian Organic Standard (AOS) and our source and bottling process are guaranteed free from chemical contaminants. It ensures that the water you drink is of the highest possible quality, in its natural state, alkaline and high in minerals. It guarantees our water is kind to you and our natural world.

"Remember, you are not just what you eat; you are what you drink," Slabb said.

Where to Get Yaru Water

Leading supermarket chain Coles now stocks Yaru Water in many of its stores, and is supporting Yaru Water with its production, distribution and packaging.

In early February 2013, Yaru products were rolled out across 160 stores in NSW and following a positive response, Coles has now committed to stocking the product range in further stores across Ausstraila, and through Coles online. Weekly production capacity was around 84,000 bottles, however with Coles support Yaru Water now plans to carry out a three-phase expansion to increase production by ten-fold by 2015.

The first phase will involve the construction of a second production facility and is expected to increase production to 880,000 bottles per week. The second facility will feature more efficient processing methods and environmentally-sustainable initiatives.

As well, Blackwoods is conducting a program to introduce Yaru Water to key customers and the community as part of its support for Indigenous organisations.

For more information on Yaru Water go to

Back to top

Safety in the Workplace

Safety in the Workplace

Harmonising safety in the workplace

Written by Alan Johnson, for TecTorque Autumn 2012.

Some said it would never happen, others likened it to pulling teeth, but whatever your thoughts are, the harmonisation of work health and safety (WHS) laws were enacted on January 1 this year in most states of Australia.

First raised by the Whitlam Government in 1974, the harmonisation of WHS laws represent a fundamental shift in the traditional regulation of OH&S in Australia. While it may take a further 12 months for the model WHS legislation to be implemented nationally, the harmonisation laws, which create a nationally uniform legislation, represent the most significant reform of OH&S laws in the past 30 years. The harmonisation of the safety laws will bring about a greater level of certainty and reduced costs to individual businesses and the economy. For workers it will mean the same work health and safety standards and protection wherever they work, reducing confusion and compliance costs over time, particularly for businesses that operate across borders. As this magazine goes to print, the parliaments of Victoria and Western Australia are the only two jurisdictions that have yet to introduce legislation to parliament, while South Australia and Tasmania have decided to delay commencement of the legislation. By committing to the harmonisation process, each state and territory in Australia will face some changes to their current OH&S arrangements.

Key changes

In most cases, the national WHS Act draws on existing state OH&S requirements. However, it also introduces some many new additions or clarifications. According to leading employment and commercial law firm, Blandslaw, the main changes included in the model legislation are:

Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU)

An employer will become known as a 'person conducting a business or undertaking'. A PCBU includes an employer, corporation, association, partnership, sole trader and certain volunteer organisations. For example, a volunteer organisation that employs a person to carry out work is a PCBU. But a volunteer organisation that operates with volunteers and does not employ anyone is not a PCBU. A PCBU has the primary duty of care for workplace health and safety. A person is not a PCBU if they are engaged solely as a worker or an officer; an elected member of a local authority; or a volunteer association where no-one is paid to carry out work for the association.

Broader definition of "worker"

The WHS Act recognises the changing choice of work options and provides a broader definition of 'worker' and work environments. Certain volunteers will be included as a worker. A worker will also include labour hire staff, apprentices, work experience students, subcontractors, and contractors. A sole trader who is a PCBU and carries out work for another business (PCBU) is also a worker for that PCBU.

Due diligence

The WHS Act clarifies that the officers of corporations have an obligation to exercise due diligence to ensure the company's duty of care. Directors and officers will have a positive duty to ensure their businesses comply with their safety obligations under new occupational, health and safety laws. Under the new laws, officers could be personally liable for up to $600,000 in fines and/or 5 years' imprisonment if they recklessly breach their duty and it results in, or exposes a person to, serious harm.

Union rights

Unions will lose the power to prosecute for an OH&S offence (currently allowed in NSW). Unions will have the right to enter any workplace to:

  • Investigate suspected breaches of the OH&S Act or regulations;
  • Consult with and provide advice to workers on OH&S issues;
  • Consult with the person in control of a workplace on OH&S issues; and
  • Health and safety representatives will have the power to direct work to cease where they feel the work will pose an immediate threat to any person. They can also issue provisional improvement notices. These powers would be new to New South Wales and Tasmania.
OH&S consultation

Clearer guidelines will be provided on employee consultation requirements. This includes the need to consult when:

  • Identifying hazards and assessing the risks of work performed;
  • Making decisions about ways to eliminate or control those risks;
  • Proposing changes that may directly affect the health and safety of workers; and
  • Making decisions regarding OH&S procedures.
Incident notification

Incident notification requirements will be uniform across all states with the employer having responsibility to notify the regulator immediately when there is a fatality, serious injury, serious illness or a dangerous incident.

Role of inspectors and regulators

The role of inspectors and regulators will be nationally consistent. Inspectors will be able to:

  • Investigate suspected breaches of OH&S legislation;
  • Issue infringement notices, improvement notices and prohibition notices; and
  • Provide advice and assist in the resolution of issues at workplaces. A regulator will be able to:
  • Seek an injunction when there is an ongoing breach of a prohibition notice; and
  • Compel compliance with an improvement notice after the time period has expired.

It is proposed that there will be four levels of penalties for breaches of the regulations, commensurate with the significance of the breach. These levels are:

Offences that are 'linked' to the WHS Act, specifically to either the general duties or the authorisations provisions, with penalties up to $3 million for reckless endangerment by a corporation, and $1.5 million for breaches giving rise to a risk of death or serious injury.

Stand-alone offences are:

  • Breaches of risk assessment requirements or other breaches giving rise to a risk of death or serious injury are $30,000 to $60,000 for corporations and $12,000 for individuals.
  • Breaches of general risk control, signage and notification requirements are $18,000 to $36,000 for corporations and $7,200 for individuals.
  • Breaches of record keeping and similar low level requirements, and breaches by workers of specific requirements are $6,000 for corporations and $1,250 for individuals.
  • Provision will also be made for infringement notices to be issued with penalties set at between $1,200 and $3,600 for a corporation.
  • Compliance with codes of practice will not be mandatory, but they may be used in proceedings to demonstrate what was known about hazards, risks and risk controls.
  • The Industrial Relations Court will no longer have jurisdiction to hear safety matters. Matters will be dealt with by the Local Court (where the maximum penalty may be imposed is $50,000) and the District Court.
Transitional Arrangements

All jurisdictions have agreed to a set of principles which will ensure that transitional arrangements are consistent across Australia, although some variations will be inevitable as each jurisdiction will be transitioning from a different work health and safety system.

Preparing for the transition

During the transition of the new harmonisation laws, which run to January 2012, present laws remain in place, however readers are advised to keep track of what is happening in their jurisdictions and assess and evaluate current OH&S practices to determine WHS Act compliance and in particular the adequacy of officers' due diligence practices.

Readers are also advised to consider and assess the appropriateness of their current policies and procedures (such as consultation arrangements, election of health and safety representatives, training) to ensure that these are complaint and adequate.

Daniel Richards, Blackwood's National Category Manager for Safety, says Blackwoods has a number of safety services to help companies through this transition period, and beyond.

"Blackwoods is the market leader in safety, with the widest range of products available and access to the broadest network of manufacturer expertise.

"We have a number of key account managers and safety specialists to co-ordinate and assist companies through the changes, to assist companies through the changes, to bring their sites up to compliance using our on-site services; most of which are free.

"For example we can conduct signage assessments, where we look at all the signage on site and all the various risks and hazards on the site to make sure the company has enough identification of them, providing plenty of warning."

Other workplace services include respiratory and hearing fit testing, drug and alcohol testing, spill and first aid kit maintenance and 'top-ups', emergency response site assessments, dangerous goods reviews, traffic management programs and materials handling and lifting certification.

Richards explained that following a partnership commitment with Blackwoods, companies are assigned a dedicated person to work through selected KPIs.

"We also spend time working with the customer to identify issues and establish an agreed action plan incorporating onsite services.

"As well as implementing individual onsite programs and encouraging worker involvement, we ascertain feedback and assessment for regular review meetings," Richards said.

"With the world moving and changing each year, positive changes such as this are sure to have a positive impact on the health and well being of Australian workers, with the primary goal to reduce injury.

"Time will tell what impact does indeed occur, as many companies move to keep up with the changes," Richards said.

Back to top

Customer Service

For general or product enquiries call our Customer Service Centre on 13 73 23

For website I.T support call 1800 750 588