Warehouse on Wheels
One of the numerous
challenges beverage distributors face is finding ways to reduce operating
expenses while maintaining logistics efficiencies and good customer
Two Georgia-based distributors took a novel approach
to cost-efficiently consolidate and streamline their distribution
operations. They are Republic National Distributing Co. of Atlanta, the
second-largest distributor of premium wine and spirits in the United
States, and Georgia Crown Distributing Co. of McDonough, a full-service
beverage distributor selling imported and domestic spirits, wines, beers
and specialty products.
The two distributors put in place an innovative
delivery system known as Warehouse on Wheels. Developed by Demountable
Concepts, Glassboro, N.J., the system allows multiple interchangeable
bodies to be loaded at a central location and then shuttled on a tractor
trailer or straight truck to regional operating points. Here, the bodies
are removed and route trucks pick up the corresponding bodies for their
The truck bodies from the previous round of deliveries
are left by the route trucks to be loaded onto the tractor trailer or
straight truck and returned to the central location for reloading.
At the core of the Warehouse on Wheels system are
specially designed equipment systems that enable a semitrailer to haul up
to four interchangeable truck bodies at one time, and a straight truck to
transport two such bodies. These equipment systems have an easy-to-operate
electric/hydraulic power lift system that raises and lowers the truck
bodies. An assembly locks down the bodies to hold them securely in place
The truck bodies are outfitted with retractable legs,
and each truck body stands independently. The body exchange for both the
semitrailer and straight truck is basically the same. To demount, the
bodies are unlocked, raised vertically enough for the legs to put in place,
and the vehicle pulls out from under the bodies.
To mount the bodies, special long sills on the truck
body guide the chassis as it backs up. Once in position, the legs are
returned to their storage location, the bodies are lowered onto the chassis
and the lock down system that holds the bodies on the chassis lift is
Interchanging four bodies on a semitrailer takes less
than an hour. It takes about 15 minutes to mount or demount two bodies from
a straight truck.
Van bodies can be customized with doors in the front
and rear to allow loading and unloading of the bodies while staged on a
semitrailer or straight truck. With the
Warehouse on Wheels system, Republic National Distributing was able to
consolidate its three Virginia warehouse operations into a single
centralized distribution center.
Shuttle (transfer) drivers make two trips each night.
Four bodies are transported on each shuttle tractor trailer, and route
deliveries begin early in the morning.
Georgia Crown Distributing runs a similar type
operation. Inventory from a single centralized distribution center in
McDonough is loaded into multiple bodies and shuttled to outlying markets
on semitrailers and a straight truck. The empty bodies are mounted and
returned to the warehouse for reloading.
Georgia Crown runs five tractor trailers, each with
four van bodies, and one straight truck with two bodies. Each body is 12
feet long and is loaded with 350 cases of product.
The loaded bodies are shuttled to regional markets at
night to avoid traffic and to have the bodies ready for the delivery trucks
to begin their routes first thing each morning.
The system helped make it possible for Georgia Crown
Distributing to combine its five warehouses into one. Another advantage of
interchangeable type body systems for beverage distributors is they make
possible quicker and more consistent restocking of retailers, plus enable
the handling of more volume with fewer people.
Moreover, these systems reduce the need for additional
truck drivers and help lower fuel costs. Shuttling several bodies together
eliminates the need for separate trips by straight trucks.
David Kolman is a veteran truck communicator,
keynote speaker and long-haul trucker. Commissioned
as an Honorary Colonel on the Kentucky governor's
staff for his work promoting traffic safety, he actively
participates in trade associations and reports news
and information about the trucking industry for
broadcasting and print media.