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A ‘6-Pack’ of Tips on How to Make Your Warehouse Beer Friendly

By Contributing Author | 05/24/2018 | 7:51 AM

By Mike Williams, Twinlode Corporation

One of the highest growth markets in recent years can be seen in food and beverage warehousing. According to a leading research firm, Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence, the market is expected to expand by more than 10 percent annually by 2022 to $191 billion from $117.6 billion today. 

Several factors are attributed to this growth, including the increasing demand for speed and accuracy as warehouses strive to protect their perishable items with the latest equipment, increased automation, keen management and higher productivity while maintaining maximum cost control.

For material handling executives and warehouse managers alike, the need to meet these demands is especially important for companies that store and distribute high volumes of beverages, including beer.

All of these firms, from the newest craft beer to big brand brews, share basic similarities in their operations – they store products on short lead times, deliver a large volume of SKUs to the market, they are dynamic and growing, and each has a warehouse situation that is very unique.  There is nothing cookie-cutter about solutions but all are built on ingenuity, productivity and cost-effectiveness. 

If you are considering transforming or expanding your warehouse facilities to include beverage and beer products, here are six basic tips to keep in mind:

  1. Learn everything there is to know about your firm or customer’s operations. You need to visit their sites, walk their warehouse floors and take part in their meetings.  Whether you are working for the distributorship or a contract consultant, your goals should be to become entrenched in their operations and earn their trust before developing solutions. You need to test the boundaries of everything they currently have that is a constraint.
  2. Determine the unique storage requirements for each SKU. You will find that the differences between beverage and beer warehousing are minimal, except for temperature or environmental factors.  Storage temperatures are lower for some beer SKUs.  Some craft and specialty beers need to be kept around 55 degrees Fahrenheit, while kegs are stored in “draught coolers” at about 40 degrees.  Carbonated beverages have similar storage requirements.
  3. Conduct a thorough inspection of your current physical plant to determine any challenges that need to be overcome. For instance:
    1. Facilities may be individually or family-owned with legacy warehouses that are second or third-generation buildings. Some are small and antiquated where owners face constant pressure to expand or to make the most of the existing space where the ceilings are low and square-footage is landlocked with no room for horizontal expansion.  
    2. On the other hand, there are updated or new buildings, with 35-foot ceilings and state-of-the-art everything.
    3. You also may find that your warehouse indoor floor space is limited and getting close to outside storage. There is no room to store incremental products or more line extensions of core brands.  Storing products in forklift and pedestrian aisles becomes a safety hazard and new solutions are needed immediately.
  4. As part of your analysis of each situation, you need to determine the warehouse storage volume levels and how many SKUs are being handled at any one time.Various options are available that can maximize storage space, meet forklift capabilities and satisfy safety requirements.
  5. In most cases where space is at a premium, you want to recommend the most vertical racking solutions possible. Today’s wide range of highly advanced rack systems are ideally suited for the unique requirements of the beverage industry, including a case/carton flow system designed for a large number of low-volume SKUs in a small area, or a craft barrel rack system which offers the same solution for the keg barrel portfolio.
  6. Your study of each warehouse also should include an analysis of inventories and velocity of each SKU. This helps in the design of rack systems that match inventory movement patterns. 

Although each warehouse has different needs that are designed for beer and beverage storage and distribution, the goals are the same:  to get products off the floor, help organize the floor, reduce congestion on the pick path, and keep pedestrian walkways clear.

Whether it is for beer, beverages, food and other types of inventory, be sure your warehouse design plans incorporate all possible logistical and cost efficiencies, including overall safety procedures, forklift access, equipment requirements and technology, employee training, and compliance with all local, state and seismic code regulations.  

Mike Williams pix

Mike Williams is national sales manager for Twinlode Corporation, which has provided storage solutions for warehouse management within the food and beverage industry for more than two decades.

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