Cooler Hack 2016

Tanya Hyman

lowTECH solution

How does it work? This device can easily be retro-fitted into exisiting coolers. It attaches to the underside of the wire shelving (Demo used zip ties). The idea is that if containers are loaded on their side, they could more easily be counted and scanned as they are being loaded into the cooler. Loading should be faster as well because the containers roll on their side instead of having to be pushed into the cooler. The idea is based on can organizing devices commonly sold in housewares stores. (Photo at end of document). One of these devices has been modified to suit the purposes of this challenge.

What does it measure? The device would have a “gate” at the front of the loading area. As the gate is moved, a counter will track the number of items going into the device. The beverage container rolls to the back of the device where there is a spring loaded lever that controls the fall of the beverage to the shelf. As this lever moves, it logs a separate count. All counts are time stamped.

Once the row is full, a current on hand inventory count can be maintained very easily.

The device could be further enhanced by the addition of a barcode or optical scanner at the load in area for products to be scanned as they enter the cooler.

Though I did not add a working sensor to the prototype, I think this would be a fairly simple thing to add. I feel the hardware is the more unique and innovative piece of this solution.

Does the retailer/bottler/distributor have to do anything different to make your solution work? Yes. The device would be very simple to install on existing coolers. The only thing that would require re-training would be how the cooler is loaded. Once the device is collecting data, it would need to be determined how to handle that data.

What materials does your solution require? For this prototype, I used a beverage can dispenser that retailed for about $5. Additional materials used were toggle bolts (for the springs on the lever), clear plastic for the levers and K’Nex building kit pieces to simulate the gate at the front of the device. It is attached with zip ties. I think it would be very simple to mass produce this type of device.

Best guest on cost to implement The prototype costs about $6 to make (retail). There would need to be about 5 devices per shelf for a total of about 30 devices per cooler (6 shelves per cooler). I did not build the electronic functionality into the prototype, but I estimate that the components to add the sensors would be about $2 per device (retail). This brings the total per device to about $6 each (retail). That’s about $180 retail per cooler but I would think further refinement and sourcing would be able to bring that cost down by at least 50%.

Challenges you/your team ran into The limitation of the prototype is that this size only accommodates cans. However, I believe the width of the device could be increased so that it would accommodate bottles as well. Because of the orientation of the containers, it is unclear whether or not the total capacity of the cooler would be the same with this device installed.

What you/your team learned

Next steps Continued refinement of the product would focus on the following: Modify width of device to accommodate multiple sized containers Addition of material handling assistance to allow two rows of beverages to be filled (adding rollers or bearings at the front of the row that would allow additional inventory to snake up the second row. Addition of sensors to count number of items in and out.

Anything else you want to add This solution clearly addresses several of the goals of the challenge:

Enables true FIFO inventory because items loaded intot he device go to the “back” of the line. Potential to collect real time on hand inventory in the cooler when combined with sensors to detect when items are loaded and taken out. This solution would be very easiy to retro-fit into existing coolers. Loading and re-stocking the cooler would be quicker using this device. The cost to produce this device is very low and would likely fit within the $100 target range.

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