In the technological world in which we all live and work there are many tools that could be vital to a wholesaler in order to get the job done. Beverage World spoke to a few experts on the topic to see which tools they would highlight as their “must haves.” Here’s what they had to say:
John Ross, Vice President of Technology and Operations, Andrews Distributing
• eoStar: “This Route Account system runs our business,” says Ross. “This tool helps us manage inventory, sales cycle and order fulfillment each day. Access to real-time information with a simple interface helps every team member make good decisions on how to better service our customers.”
• MicroStrategy: This business intelligence dashboard suite helps Andrews Distributing present information to our team members, suppliers and customers in a “meaningful” way, Ross says. This tool has allowed sales leaders to embrace mobility without losing the benefits of being in the office.
• SOTI: The MobiControl suite by SOTI helped the wholesaler deploy and manage more than 1,000 mobile devices. “These devices are deployed and are out in the trade more often than in the office, so the IT team is able to update, service, diagnose and fix issues without having to come back in the office. This has helped a small IT team manage many devices within the organization,” says Ross.
• Raymond Pallet Jacks with 12’ Forks: “This piece of equipment coupled with Rutherford’s voice-pick solution is allowing our order selectors to pick up to three separate customer orders at the same time. We are seeing tremendous efficiency gains, over 34 percent improvements on picking speed and improving our accuracy to over 99 percent at the same time.”
• Lantech Stretch Wrappers: This piece of equipment was installed in each of Andrews’ distribution centers quickly after realizing the benefits: This tool helps keep the product intact throughout the delivery process; The machine immediately provided safety benefits along with adding speed to the order fulfillment team.
• Briggs Equipment and its Full Maintenance Program: “We use Briggs Equipment across the board, not because of its access to excellent forklifts, but its full maintenance program is second to none,” Ross says. “We lease our forklifts so we need to make sure they are in tip-top shape throughout their lifecycle and when they are returned to the bank upon completion of their lease agreement.”
Chet Willey, Owner, Chet Willey Associates
Here are Willey’s top 4 distribution tools that he uses when working with distributors.
• Projector Software: Willey says he uses proprietary software that incorporates annual sales growth and projected SKU additions for up to 10 years and beyond to calculate future warehouse space requirements.
• Voice Picking: Software that allows for pick area layouts with product slotting utilizes case size to build even layers that maximize voice picking efficiencies, says Willey. Route accounting software companies including Vermont Information Processing (VIP) and Rutherford Associates have different variations and Dematic also has software applications.
• Analyzer: An SKU Analyzer that calculates costs and profitability of proposed brand packages is an important tool, says Willey.
• Layer Pickers/Stretch Wrappers: “Utilization of automated stretch wrappers and layer pickers can dramatically increase productivity for warehouse operations that exceed 5 million cases per year,” he says. Orion, Lantech and Wultech are three big players in automated stretch wrappers, he notes, adding Cascade and Tygard are two primary companies for layer pickers.
Gary Thompson, COO, Powers Distributing
• iPads for Sales Reps: Using an iPad provides a larger order screen to display more information, clearer maps of local outlets and volumes, etc., notes Thompson.
“In addition, there is presentation software available for use to make a stronger sales call.”
• Conveyor, Order Pick and Sort Systems: Systems like these, such as voice pick, provide a baseline for accepting the dramatic increase in SKUs, says Thompson, and the drop in velocity per SKU without crashing the warehouse cost structure.
“We have used both—it is probably best to go iteratively through that process,” he says. “You must have control of inventories and additions to SKUs in order to implement anything of this nature. Have a strong technical group and a mindset change in the warehouse to develop a true production environment here, not the timeless beer mentality we have all become accustomed to.”
• Pallet Switchers: With the growth of Club stores and the specificity of CHEP pallets, a lot of distributors are re-stacking beer from one pallet to another to satisfy club orders, explains Thompson.
“A pallet switcher like those manufactured by Cascade allows you to place a pallet in the switcher, turn it, replace the pallet and set it back—a huge time saver for wholesalers.”
The additional benefit of this device is that some suppliers use dangerously cheap pallets that will not hold together and raise warehouse breakage and cost, points out Thompson. The pallet switcher allows you to remove those “junk” pallets, he says, and place better pallets under the load so that you can move them safely and break less.
• Palletizers: “Watch out for this one. You can save a bunch of time using a palletizer with great results, but the transition is a wild one. Have a strong technical team and be capable of analysis of issues and problems. Pick a great business partner,” says Thompson.
Dan Ambrose, Logistics Manager, Crescent Crown Distributing
• Geotab, GPS Fleet Management: This year, Crescent Crown implemented a system from Geotab, a company that specializes in in the area of GPS fleet management and vehicle tracking, also known as telematics. “One of the benefits of Geotab is it gives us real-time information on driving behaviors, not just watching dots on a map,” says Ambrose. “This has helped in monitoring idle times, harsh acceleration and speeding, which all have a large impact on fuel usage. “We’ve been able to set goals against those parameters and we’ve seen a significant savings in fuel usage,” he adds. The system also provides the ability to set safety warnings, including seat belt warnings and harsh cornering, and maintenance alerts for oil, coolant, transmission, battery, etc. to avoid catastrophic engine failure.
• GreenMile: This technology is designed to go the “extra mile” by providing a comprehensive telematics solution. Working in partnership with Geotab and XRS (formerly Xata Turnpike) the systems feed real-time GPS data into GreenMile Live to produce reports that help run fleets more efficiently. “They’ve been a great company to work with. GreenMile has been very good at working with us on custom reports. They’ve been very good at designing the software for our individual requirements for our business,” says Ambrose. Crescent Crown uses this web-based technology that can be accessed from iPhones or Android phones giving supervisors the ability to see where drivers and merchandisers are in real-time. The technology helps Crescent Crown track service times and drive times for example, to identify cost per stock or excess mileage, which can result in excess delivery costs. “This is a web- based program too,” notes Ambrose, “and I think that’s what enables it to have a lot of flexibility in what you are able to do with the program.”
• Roadnet: “We are still a Roadnet user,” he says. “Roadnet is still a very important part of our business. We use it for territory planning to help us develop our master routing schedule and re-routes, and we use it for our nightly dispatching as well… We use Roadnet as a backbone system to bring our routes into our system.”
TermSync Adds to Sales Software
TermSync, a cloud-based post-sale communication platform that primarily serves beverage vendors and distributors like Pepsi, has introduced a new version of its software, TermSync 4.0.
While previous versions solely focused on helping users manage the invoicing and collections process, TermSync 4.0 is an expanded full-service, post-sale communication platform, designed to help vendors not only get paid faster, but also improve customer service and their ability to reach customer employees who make product purchases, the company says.
Along with the platform’s overall redesign, which will provide vendors and their customers a better user experience, one key feature that has been added is the weekly CARE e-mail. The new CARE e-mail is similar to TermSync’s existing bundled payment reminder in that it’s sent once a week and can include multiple vendors; however, it’s delivered much earlier in the post-sale process allowing vendors to correct any delivery issues sooner, as well as interact with those responsible for making purchases—not just paying the bills.
Once buyers receive the e-mail, they can then click through to each vendor’s summary page, which includes current invoice information, past correspondence, vendor accountability metrics, vendor product specials and promotions and a place to order additional products or services, notes Mark Wilson, CEO and founder of TermSync.
To push vendors to respond to customer questions in a timelier manner and to get customers to interact with vendors more through the online portal, TermSync is requiring vendors that choose to send the CARE e-mail to commit to responding to each customer question within one business day. If the vendor takes longer to respond, the customer will receive a $50 VISA gift card, the company says.
American Eagle Implements Online Beverage Brand Finder
American Eagle Distributing Co. recently implemented a new Beverage Brand Finder tool on its website, AmericanEagleDistributing.com. Beer and beverage enthusiasts looking for a convenient, quick way to find out where they can purchase some of their favorite products across northern Colorado can now use this Brand Finder to track down products.
“As a distributor, we diligently work with our suppliers to make their products accessible to those who want it most,” says Fred Liske, general manager for American Eagle Distributing Co. “We are 100 percent committed to northern Colorado and saw this as an opportunity to help consumers conveniently find and purchase their drink of choice or find new beverages to try. Giving them the option to find the product based on location also supports our goal of supporting our local retailers and the economy in general.”
To access the tool, users should visit American Eagle Distributing’s website, locate the portfolio drop-down menu where the first page option is Brand Finder. Once on the Brand Finder page, users can filter their search by packaging type (draft beer, packaged beer or non-alcoholic beverages), supplier (such as Anheuser-Busch, Epic, Funkwerks, Dancing Pines Distillery or Monster Energy), brand (the name of the specific product) and business type. The Brand Finder allows users to search a range of 10 to 100 miles from any zip code.
“Consumers being able to quickly and efficiently locate their favorite products have always been a challenge in our industry. A tool to locate their favorite products will not only benefit the consumer but the retailers as well,” says Russell Fruits, beer evangelist with Grimm Brothers Brewhouse.
Temperature Control Warehouse on Wheels
Demountable Concepts, Inc. is making refrigerated and freezer versions of its Warehouse on Wheels System available to beverage distributors in the United States. The system allows operators to deliver temperature-sensitive goods by refrigerated straight-truck in remote markets up to 250 miles from a distribution center, eliminating the need for cross-docking or regional warehouses.
The system’s demountable cargo bodies are interchangeable between the specialized semi-trailer chassis and straight trucks. The bodies are ideal for deliveries to medium and smaller companies that require mixed-pallet or hand-truck-to-store service, the company says. Goods picked and loaded for each customer location travel directly from a centralized distribution center to the customer’s refrigerated display in the same truck body with no additional handling. The system is a more efficient, cost-effective alternative to cross-docking and regional warehouses. It also simplifies inventory management, streamlines loading, and can be operated at the regional market by non-CDL drivers.
System components consist of specialized semi-trailers that can mount and demount multiple straight-truck bodies; straight-truck chassis equipped with a hydraulic lift and locking system to facilitate mounting and demounting bodies; and straight-truck bodies with a unique base frame and integrated retractable legs. Each body is built to customer specifications with a dedicated fuel tank that powers the refrigeration unit recessed into the top of the body.
WAREHOUSE MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS
Accellos forms Partnership with UXC Eclipse in Asia Pacific
Accellos, a leading provider of supply chain execution software solutions, has partnered with UXC Eclipse, a large Microsoft Dynamics partner in the Asia Pacific region, that will enable the company to deliver its AccellosOne Collect for Microsoft Dynamics GP warehouse management solution to that market. The partnership agreement offers UXC Eclipse’s Microsoft Dynamics GP customers an integrated solution that seamlessly automates their warehouse, distribution and manufacturing processes, the company says.
Built specifically for companies running Microsoft Dynamics GP, AccellosOne Collect for Microsoft Dynamics GP enables distributors and manufacturers to automate warehouse processes, while providing the tools to effectively keep track of inventory in real time. Through wireless technology, Collect for Microsoft Dynamics GP integrates seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics GP, by gathering data at its origin and entering it in real-time into the ERP. Information is gathered through user prompts on RF hand-held scanners, the company explains, and processed through Microsoft Dynamics GP utilizing all the business rules of the ERP. AccellosOne Collect for Microsoft Dynamics GP connects, collects, and controls every aspect of the Microsoft Dynamics GP receiving, order fulfillment, manufacturing and inventory control functions.
UXC Eclipse has 14 offices internationally and over 400 employees.
ITWWA Upgrades to VTP Palletizers, Software
ITW Warehouse Automation (ITWWA), the global supplier of fully integrated warehousing solutions, has made improvements to its VTP Palletizers and VPS software. VPS software has been upgraded to enable pallet patterns to be changed in real-time with minimal effort required of employees or the robotic palletizers, the company says. In addition, the VTP Palletizers now operate up to 40 percent faster with the same flexibility and gentle product handling they are known for. “We are always looking for ways to provide customers with the most efficient warehousing solutions available,” says Jeff Stingel, vice president of sales, ITWWA. “These upgrades are an example of that commitment.”
The enhanced VPS software now allows users to change pallet patterns without stopping production. Pallet patterns are built with the graphic user interface in the PC and users simply input package sizes and number of cases on a pallet.
“Software is the fundamental building block for any successful warehouse automation solution,” says Stingel. “Our VPS software provides the accuracy and flexibility necessary to help our customers successfully achieve their automation needs.” VPS also helps ITWWA’s VTP Palletizers take on more functions. The robotic palletizers can handle each case or SKU differently. VPS communicates to the robots whether cases are lighter or paced in various materials so they can handle each accordingly. The VTP Palletizers’ gentle product handling is further matched by the fact that the robots eliminate slat dividers and “bump turns.”