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Alcohol Distribution: Automated Warehouse Solutions

Imagine a dynamic automated system that may help you to meet the most challenging demands of your alcohol distribution business!


With growing consumer groups, the product line is expanding to include more new styles and flavors of alcoholic beverages. It turns into a substantial increase in the SKUs which then leads to many inevitable struggles. So, how should you strategize your next steps to fulfill the requirements of the fast-changing alcohol beverage industry?

Implementing Dynamic & Agile Automation in Warehouse

High-level technologies implemented in the warehouse enables the warehouse to provide faster work and order deliveries. Warehouse automation is now widely used and one of the most efficient, powerful and practical ways to boost ROI (Return on Investment) by lessening labor cost and increasing accuracy. Many industry leaders including Amazon and Walmart have already jumped into warehouse automation a few years before. Once the business starts to grow across the industry, increasing shipments and internal tasks to carry out the shipment deliveries will grow difficult, too. Hence, investing in high-tech solutions and resources will not prove you wrong. In fact, automation has a great effect on labor cost reduction, and it can bring more and better visibility to the operations of the warehouse. Talking about warehouse automation, many people think it as the implementation of software systems for carrying out operations, whereas others think it as implementing automated hardware systems to carry out daily operations. Both technologies work together to successfully establish automation in the warehouse. Let’s dig it deep!

One of the leading North American alcohol distributor Breakthru Beverage Group, a few years back, was working out of three warehouses. With the growth of their business, they decided to have a warehouse which would give them the competence to match the market requirements. They decided to build a new facility near Chicago, understanding that their investment was for long-term growth. They rebuilt the 35-acre facility standing tall at 42 feet and installed automated storage and retrieval system which gave them the ability to store 10 pallets deep at the same time maintaining the balance of inventory and movement across the system. (Source: Westfalia). AS/RS – A number of technically-controlled systems are teamed together to make an Automated Storage and Retrieval System and they themselves place and retrieve goods from various storage locations. This system maximizes the storage capacity disregarding of the storage structure. It also minimizes energy cost, labor cost, and product damage. Compared to manual operations, this system increases the accuracy in overall.

The Basics

At the bottom-line, the automation process starts with identifying repetitive and process-oriented tasks, which are more time consuming and error prone, and lastly, finding out ways to automate them. Warehouse automation incorporates many aspects, including:

Picking: The most repetitive and time-consuming process of the warehouse is picking the goods. Since the process is entirely carried out by humans, the likelihood of errors and damage is very high. With modular shelving systems incorporated with warehouse robotics, the automated picking process can lessen this probable damage and errors.

Barcode Labels and Scanning: Gone are the days when distributors used to rely on documentation to keep track of incoming and outgoing goods. A huge amount of man hours is what this manual process used to consume. This tragic loss is covered by automating documentation process using barcode labels, rack labels, warehouse signs, and computer-controlled hardware to read these labels and signs. These labels if fused with a correct software program and scanning technology, are able to save a lot of amount of time, eliminate errors and enhance overall documentation process.

Inventory Management: Many warehouse facilities are still reliant on paper methods for inventory cycle counts. Errors including wrong data entry and inconsistency in processing are the most common ones. Inventory control being a very huge and important part of the business, managing it incorrectly can cause many disruptions in the entire business process. Incorporating automated inventory management systems is a smarter and effective decision a distributor must take.

Automated Guided Vehicles: AGVs are used to move goods from one place to another, outfitted with load-handling devices. These vehicles consist of self-guided forklifts and palate carts. They don’t require human-intervention which is a key trait to consider. Automating this process is one of the most cost-effective strategies a warehouse can adapt.

Inventory automation leads to automating back-office operations. Including automated warehouse management system allows the warehouse to control and administer operations starting from, goods entering the warehouse to picking and auditing.

With automation, distributors can upgrade the standard of warehouse management and everyday processes. Implementing automation in the warehouse provides the business with continuous uptime and lesser interruption, as robots do not need leaves, breaks or refreshments. It also reduces the risk of downtime. These self-optimizing technologies help warehouse managers on how they can fully utilize their existing inventory. Damage control is, too, one of the major benefits of the automation system. With all of the advantages of using automation systems, there are downfalls too, lost jobs! Smart robots, programmed with greater intelligence and flexibility replace many jobs from the business.

However, a fully automated warehouse can be very expensive. Hence, semi-automated solutions are attracting more attention than ever. Since the current trends of e-commerce and DTC sales are not showing signs of slowing down, avoiding to move towards automation seems unworkable.

How to execute automation in the warehouse?

The first step towards warehouse automation is warehouse organization. It commences with optimizing the warehouse with a strategic organization. It requires thorough analysis and planning. Typically, warehouses use vertical space and strategies to support the excellent traffic flow.

To determine the optimal layout of the warehouse design, below three factors should be evaluated.

Aisle width: Modern guided vehicles need aisle width to be five feet, to accommodate forklifts.

Product moving ratio: Instead of grouping similar brand’s bottles together, group according to the pace that the bottles are moving, faster-moving brands closer to shipping lanes.

Travel Time: While maximizing the warehouse size, keep in mind that it only adds to travel time.

A warehouse that was once operating manually, automating it is a serious undertaking. It is, indeed, an expensive step to take, but if one thinks for a long-term perspective, it is only beneficial.

There are many companies that can help your alcohol distribution business by implementing automation in your warehouse, including, Westfalia, Cirrus Tech and Mecalux. So, strengthen your bottom-line with these automation technologies and boost your alcohol distribution business.

Helpful so far? Get more insightful sessions to be conducted by top-notch industry leaders at ​2020 ABID Conference. ABID has been designed to help small and medium wine, beer and liquor distributors and importers of the United States to grow their bottom-line. The conference offers two days of educational and networking opportunities which will help you grow your business. Book your seat for the 2020 ABID conference before May 20, 2019 for the lowest price.

2020 ABID super early bird offer is now on! The event is on May 26-27, 2020 in New York. Register here to book your seats at the lowest price. Offer ends August 31, 2019.