New Brew of Software for Beverage Distribution

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Changing consumer demands are leading beverage distributors to invest in new, industry-specific software.

ExactaBEV - Beverage Software

Consumers are getting more tech savvy when it comes to purchasing goods. The common trend is to be faster, more accurate, and provide decision-making information on-demand. We utilize smartphone apps to find the best products for the best price to compare online sales with traditional brick-and-mortar sales. The market of purchasing wine and spirits is no different.

So why have most wine and spirits distribution centers been using the same material handling equipment (MHE) design within their warehouses for decades? A primary factor is that these layouts are relatively simple, well understood and repeatable, which makes them low cost. But with increasing consumer demands, these traditional systems are often not able to keep up with throughput and changing order profiles.

More advanced material handling solutions have been widely implemented in the non-alcoholic beverage industry but there has not been much interest in the wine and spirits industry until recently. The level of consolidation the wine and spirits industry has seen in the past few years has necessitated new developments and expansion of investment in more advanced material handling solutions.

A Changing Wine & Spirits Distribution Model

Although wine and spirits distribution has mostly remained the same for more than 30 years, with new technology advancements, there has been a disruption of the entire industry. With new technology comes a need for a new software packaged designed specifically for the beverage industry. Bastian Solutions is excited to announce the launch of our new beverage warehouse execution system, ExactaBEV, which offers best-in-class wave planning, order routing and control of the latest order fulfillment technologies for the beverage industry.

Master control station

Picking the perfect wine should be effortless, in a restaurant or in the warehouse, which means an effective beverage distribution software package should improve visibility, speed, and accuracy. It should also be flexible and modular to ensure your facilities specific needs and business goals are met.

In the US, the beverage industry has remained relatively stagnant within the four walls of a distribution center. A typical beverage distribution center might include:

  • Route-based waving software
  • Label-based picking for full cases
  • Paper or voice-picking for individual bottles
  • Accumulating conveyor to a primary shipping merge
  • Single sorter to sort cases to dock doors

There have been minor advancements in route-planning and labor planning, however the physical layout of the DC remains the same. Only the largest facilities make use of higher levels of automation. That is all about to change.

Welcome to ExactaBEV

The web-based ExactaBev portal provides route-waving tools that are flexible, rules-driven, and easy to use.  ExactaBev organizes picks into waves of work that maximize picker efficiency while keeping picks for a stop together.  The rich graphical displays let users visualize the work to be done and the labor required in each area of the warehouse.

New modules for:

  • Business intelligence
  • Voice and pick to light bottle picking
  • Automated case dispensers and storage buffers
  • Real-time and historical data reporting
  • Intelligent wave routing for maximum efficiency
  • Predictive analysis accurately estimates route completion
  • Robust and user-friendly tools are built into the web interface.
  • Automated integration with conveyor systems drives accuracy, speed, and sorting

beverage conveyor system

Traditional Layout vs. New Technologies

The traditional warehouse for beverage distributors has, at its heart, a central merge feeding a main shipping sorter. The merge allows cases picked in wave-sequence from different areas of the warehouse to combine in a favorable manner for the shipping sorter as each route is loaded in reverse-stop order. As order volumes increase, due to consolidation of facilities and SKU growth, the traditional layout faces some challenges:

  • Increased number of full case pick modules to accommodate higher SKU facings consumes more floor space and dramatically increases labor requirements
  • The heart of the conveyor system, the merge and sorter, can quickly become a bottleneck if not designed to handle the rates necessary to prevent longer shifts

Creating forward-looking material handling solutions and finding creative ways to augment existing systems is the key to longevity of the current beverage industry supply chain. Below are two examples from our customer, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

System Example 1:

System Example 2:

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits: Designed to Last – Article from Modern Materials Handling

ROI with Goods-to-Person Technology

Goods-to-person systems such as Perfect Pick, Autostore, and Servus have been the forerunners of combining storage and retrieval into one complete package. These systems utilize less space than normal pallet rack which helps get more life out of existing building footprints. When planning new facilities, the amount of space needed will be much less.

With a goods-to-person system, savings will also be reflected in labor–not in a reduction of employees but making their jobs more ergonomic and streamlined. Instead of having employee’s waste time walking the floor to fulfill orders, they are now standing at a workstation where robots deliver the goods to them or deliver the cases directly to an outbound conveyor. This equals faster, more accurate picking and less work organizing picking labels. Employees will also no longer have to lift heavy boxes of liquor.

High-strength robotic palletizers and depalletizers, are also key pieces of advanced automation that eliminate the need for employees to maneuver heavy product which can often be back-breaking labor.

To Summarize

The beverage industry is experiencing rapid growth and a consolidation of major distributors. Forward thinking companies need to evaluate new automation equipment paired with a powerful software package. Beverage distribution companies are turning to material handling integrators to develop new solutions to maintain this growth. These systems can increase overall throughput and help shave hours off normal shift times and labor costs, reducing employee overtime while increasing the volume of orders shipped.

Implementing advanced automation systems and powerful software suites, such as ExactaBEV, are helping companies hold on to their real estate longer in scenarios where space is limited or labor rates are high. They also provides new opportunities for growth when planning out new facilities, while also providing complete visibility into operations.

Learn more about the Exacta Software Suite and ExactaBEV, or contact us with questions. We would be happy to discuss your next software investment.

Chris Bratten is a Sr. Logistics Consultant with Bastian Solutions' software division headquartered in Louisville, KY. Chris has been with the company since 2005 and joined after completing his masters degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

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