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How to Increase Efficiency in Your Beverage DC


Beverage Distribution Center

How can distributors manage the increase in the number of products they handle and deliver? The old ways of handling beverages in the distribution center won’t work.

The beverage industry is booming, from craft beer to bottled water to energy drinks. The Brewers Association reports that 7,346 craft breweries operated in the US in 2018, up from 6,490 in 2017. These breweries produced a combined 25.9M barrels of beer in 2018. The US bottled water industry is worth about $100 billion annually. The Global Energy Drink Market size is expected to reach $72 billion by 2024, rising at a market growth of 7.1% CAGR.

UNEX Span-Track in a beverage distribution center.The growth of the beverage industry has found distributors swamped with more and more SKUs of new products to carry. Plus, seasonal swells of inventory and promotional products need space in the warehouse, too. Distributors are adding new and different customers, along with online ordering and delivery, which has become another distribution channel for them to handle. On top of this growth, is the need to manage expiration dates on products.

Beverage distributors need to:
  1. Manage SKUs
  2. Better observe expiration dates
  3. Speed throughput


Managing SKUs

To reduce time walking to and from picking mediums and to find the appropriate storage medium for handling an increase in the number of products, you need to perform a slotting analysis. Slotting your warehouse properly ensures SKUs are in the best picking locations by understanding the velocity of SKUs, balancing the labor required within picking zones, and placing SKUs in more ergonomic locations.

A slotting analysis system uses a product’s dimensions, weight and velocity, to determine the best storage medium and location for each SKU. By properly slotting SKUs, you can increase throughput and pick efficiencies.

Expiration Dates

UNEX Span-Track Lane in a beverage distribution center using FIFO methodBeverages have expiration dates. Products need to be stored properly to ensure expiration dates are not missed. Storing items in shelving that supports the FIFO methodology means you pick and ship products as fresh as possible. FIFO means first in, first out – the first items placed in storage, are the first items picked. FIFO is best for businesses that sell perishable food/drink items or products that have an expiration date.

Carton flow racks with SpanTrack Lane provide constant inventory rotation, this system is ideal for storing SKUs with expiration dates. Carton flow rack allows products to be continuously available to pickers, which increases productivity and provides high volume case-pick and piece-pick applications. These racks incorporate inclined rollers or wheels to allow products to glide from the back-loading aisle to the front pick face.

Speeding Throughput

To meet increasing demands from customers and expectations for shorter order-to-delivery times, accelerating fulfillment should be a key focus of your distribution operation. Eliminating touches, minimizing travel, and improving picking accuracy helps you to pick and fill orders faster.

UNEX Span-Track Lane with pick shelves in a beverage distribution center

Replenish shelves quickly from the rear so pick faces stay full. With carton flow you can replenish from the back while picking from the front of the rack. Create a high-velocity SKU pick area to increase throughput and limit the number of pick zones the picker has to visit.

For one beverage distributor, UNEX outfitted certain Span-Track lanes with ergonomic pick shelves that allowed order pickers to better see the items being picked. The picker no longer needed to pull the carton down from the rack, open it, remove the needed products, and replace it. This greatly increased the efficiency of the order picking operations in their facilities. To learn how UNEX products helped this distributor prepare their facility for growth, download the case study.

Beer is often distributed in kegs, which are heavy and hard to manage. UNEX offers a carton flow solution, Keg Flow, specific to keg storage that helps distributors improve the ergonomics and efficiency of their picks. Our engineers have designed full-width heavy-duty rollers that properly support almost any container bottom and full-length guardrails that keep products in line and flowing straight to the point of pick.



UNEX has a variety of carton flow products and services available to help beverage distributors with the growing needs of their businesses. Beverage distributors can increase pick efficiency and ensure proper FIFO rotation with SpanTrack, plus improve ergonomics and speed throughput with Keg Flow.

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