- Most workers learn their skills on the job.
- Opportunities should be good for persons with some knowledge of electronics.
Coin, vending, and amusement machines are a familiar sight in offices, convenience stores, arcades, and casinos. These coin-operated machines dispense refreshments, test our senses, and spit out lottery tickets nearly everywhere we turn. Coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers install, service, and stock these machines and keep them in good working order.
Vending machine servicers, often called route drivers, visit coin-operated machines that dispense soft drinks, candy and snacks, and other items. They collect money from the machines, restock merchandise, and change labels to indicate new selections. They also keep the machines clean and appealing.
Vending machine repairers, often called mechanics or technicians, make sure machines operate correctly. When checking complicated electrical and electronic machines, such as beverage dispensers, they make sure that the machines mix drinks properly and that refrigeration and heating units work correctly. On the relatively simple gravity-operated machines, servicers check handles, springs, plungers, and merchandise chutes. They also test coin and change-making mechanisms.
When installing machines, vending machine repairers make the necessary water and electrical connections and check the machines for proper operation. They also make sure installation complies with local plumbing and electrical codes. Because many vending machines dispense food, these workers must comply with State and local public health and sanitation standards.
Amusement machine servicers and repairers work on juke boxes, video games, pinball machines, and slot machines. They make sure the various levers, joysticks, and mechanisms function properly, so that the games remain fair and the juke box selections are accurate. They update selections, repair or replace malfunctioning parts, and rebuild existing equipment. Those who work in the gaming industry must adhere to strict guidelines, because State and Federal agencies regulate many gaming machines.
Preventive maintenanceavoiding trouble before it startsis a major job of repairers. For example, they periodically clean refrigeration condensers, lubricate mechanical parts, and adjust machines to perform properly.
If a machine breaks down, vending and amusement machine repairers inspect it for obvious problems, such as loose electrical wires, malfunctions of the coin mechanism, and leaks. When servicing electronic machines, repairers test them with hand held diagnostic computers that determine the extent and location of any problem. Repairers may only have to replace a circuit board or other component to fix the problem. However, if the problem cannot be readily located, these workers refer to technical manuals and wiring diagrams and use testing devices, such as electrical circuit testers to find defective parts. Repairers decide if they must replace a part and whether they can fix the malfunction on-site or if they have to send the machine to the repair shop.
In the repair shop, vending and amusement machine repairers use power tools, such as grinding wheels, saws, and drills, as well as voltmeters, ohmmeters, oscilloscopes, and other testing equipment. They also use ordinary repair tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches.
Vending machine servicers and repairers employed by small companies may both fill and fix machines on a regular basis. These combination servicers-repairers stock machines, collect money, fill coin and currency changers, and repair machines when necessary.
Servicers and repairers also do some paper work, such as filing reports, preparing repair cost estimates, ordering parts, and keeping daily records of merchandise distributed. However, new machines with computerized inventory controls reduce the paperwork a servicer must complete.
Some vending and amusement machine repairers work primarily in company repair shops, but many spend substantial time on the road visiting machines wherever they have been placed. Vending and amusement machines operate around the clock, so repairers often work at night and on weekends and holidays.
Vending and amusement machine repair shops generally are quiet, well lighted, and have adequate work space. However, when servicing machines on location, the work may be done where pedestrian traffic is heavy, such as in busy supermarkets, industrial complexes, offices, casinos, or arcades. Repair work is relatively safe, although servicers and repairers must take care to avoid hazards such as electrical shocks and cuts from sharp tools and other metal objects. They also must follow safe work procedures, especially when moving heavy vending and amusement machines.
Coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers held about 27,000 jobs in 1998. Most repairers work for vending companies that sell food and other items through machines. Others work for soft drink bottling companies that have their own coin-operated machines. A growing number of servicers and repairers work for amusement establishments that own video games, pin-ball machines, juke boxes, slot machines, and similar types of amusement equipment. Although vending and amusement machine servicers and repairers are employed throughout the country, most are located in areas with large populations and many vending and amusement machines.
Employers normally prefer to hire high school graduates. New workers are trained to fill and fix machines informally on the job by observing, working with, and receiving instruction from experienced repairers. High school or vocational school courses in electricity, refrigeration, and machine repair are an advantage in qualifying for entry level jobs. Employers usually require applicants to demonstrate mechanical ability, either through work experience or by scoring well on mechanical aptitude tests.
Because coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers sometimes handle thousands of dollars in merchandise and cash, employers hire persons who have a record of honesty. The ability to deal tactfully with people also is important. A commercial drivers license and a good driving record are essential for most vending and amusement machine servicer and repairer jobs. Some employers require their servicers to be bonded.
As electronics become more prevalent in vending and amusement machines, employers will increasingly prefer applicants who have some training in electronics. Technologically advanced machines with features such as multilevel pricing, inventory control, and scrolling messages extensively use electronics and microchip computers. Some vocational high schools and junior colleges offer 1- to 2-year training programs in basic electronics.
Beginners start training with simple jobs, such as cleaning or stocking machines. They then learn to rebuild machines, by removing defective parts, repairing, adjusting, and testing the machines. Next, they accompany an experienced repairer on service calls, and finally make visits on their own. This learning process takes from 6 months to 3 years, depending on the individuals abilities, previous education, types of machines serviced, and the quality of instruction.
The National Automatic Merchandising Association has a self-study mechanics training program for vending machine repairers. Repairers use manuals for instruction in subjects such as customer relations, safety, electronics, and schematic reading. Upon completion of the program, repairers must pass a written test, to become certified as a journey or master mechanic.
To learn about new machines, repairers and servicers sometimes attend training sessions sponsored by manufacturers that may last from a few days to several weeks. Both trainees and experienced workers sometimes take evening courses in basic electricity, electronics, microwave ovens, refrigeration, and other related subjects to stay on top of new techniques and equipment. Skilled servicers and repairers may be promoted to supervisory jobs or go into business for themselves.
Employment of coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2008, because of the increasing number of vending and amusement machines in operation.
Establishments are likely to install additional vending machines in industrial plants, hospitals, stores, and other business establishments, to meet the public demand for inexpensive snacks and other food items. The range of products dispensed by machine is expected to increase, as vending machines continue to become increasingly automated and machines are built that include microwave ovens, mini-refrigerators, and freezers. In addition, casinos, arcades, and other amusement establishments are an increasing source of entertainment for baby boomers and young adults. Also, State and multi-State lotteries are increasingly using coin-operated machines, to sell scratch-off tickets in grocery stores and other public places.
Improved technology in newer machines will moderate employment growth, because these machines require maintenance less frequently than older ones. These new machines will need repairing and restocking less often, and contain computers that record sales and inventory data, reducing the amount of time-consuming paperwork. Additionally, some new machines use wireless data transmitters to signal the vending machine company, when these machines need restocking or repairing. This allows servicers and repairers to be dispatched only when needed, instead of their having to check each machine on a regular schedule.
Experienced workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force will create job openings. Persons with some background in electronics should have good job prospects, because electronic circuitry is an important component of vending and amusement machines. If firms cannot find trained or experienced workers for these jobs, they are likely to train qualified route drivers or hire inexperienced people who have acquired some mechanical, electrical, or electronic training by taking high school or vocational courses.
Median hourly earnings of coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers were $11.18 in 1998. The middle 50 percent earned between $8.73 and $13.83 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $6.80 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $16.56 an hour. Typically, States with some form of legalized gaming have the highest wages.
Most coin, vending, and amusement machine servicers and repairers work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and receive premium pay for overtime. Some union contracts stipulate higher pay for night work and for emergency repair jobs on weekends and holidays than for regular hours. Some vending machine repairers and servicers are members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Other workers who repair equipment with electrical and electronic components include home appliance and power tool repairers, electronic equipment repairers, and general maintenance mechanics.
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Information on job opportunities in this field can be obtained from local vending machine firms and local offices of your State employment service. For general information on vending machine repair, write to:
- National Automatic Merchandising Association, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Suite 3500, Chicago, IL 60606-3102. Internet: http://www.vending.org
- American Vending Sales, Inc.,750 Morse Ave., Elk Grove Village, IL 60007.