Attendees and exhibitors descended upon the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Ariz., for the 12th Annual BevOps Fleet Summit. The four-day conference took place Sept. 19-22. This year’s event was the first time that the summit was produced by BNP Media’s Events Division with Beverage Industry serving as its media partner.

The opening day festivities included a golf outing at the Whirlwind Gold Club. The evening concluded at the welcome reception on the Akimel Lawn. These events lead up to the next day’s opening remarks from Beverage Industry Publisher and FBP Group Beverage Market & Media Leader Steven Pintarelli, who detailed the changing landscape of the beverage market and the impact that it has had on the supply chain. Pintarelli then welcomed Frederick Stromeyer, supply chain director for Bacardi North America.

As the opening keynote, Stromeyer detailed how the spirits producer incorporates environmental sustainability and social responsibility as part of its company ethos. Among the practices that Stromeyer shared that have aided the company’s goals are shipping full loads, and using rail and SmartWay carriers.

Following a brief break, the summit hosted its SKU Selections Strategies panel featuring Kimberly Clements, managing partner of Pints LLC; Gary Thompson, executive vice president and general manager of Powers Distributing; and Kevin Wilkerson, director of trade development for Breakthru Beverage Nevada. The three panelists noted the changing landscape in which consumers are shopping, the strong performance by craft beer and spirit brands in recent years, as well as even more opportunities that can be presented to distributors when factoring in up-and-coming non-alcohol SKUs.

The afternoon continued with breakout sessions following two tracks: fleet and operations.

For the operations track, the afternoon began with Chet Willey, president of Chet Willey Associates, and Jack Holleran, president of HDA Architects, who presented Facility Design with SKU Proliferation in Mind. The two discussed the impact of automation on facility design, state-of-the-art facilities and provided examples of innovative facilities that improved space utilization to accommodate SKU increases.

The next session welcomed Skip Eastman, chief executive officer of Twinlode Corp., who presented Fundamentals of Racking Inspection & Maintenance. Eastman discussed a range of topics in relation to storage solutions, including whether seismic matters, why collapses happen, guidelines for inspection and maintenance, and innovations in rack engineering.

The third operations session of the day featured Jim Staton, vice president of information technology for Mutual Distribution Co., who presented Turning Data into Action. The case study detailed how the wholesaler empowers its sales force through mobile devices by using real-time consumer data.

The final operations session for the day welcomed Rich Marchant, executive vice president of operations for Crescent Crown Distributing, with Incentivizing Speed and Accuracy. Among the items discussed, Marchant highlighted the different ways to build incentives by utilizing software and tracking as well as the importance of the people hired to accomplish those goals.

Taking place simultaneously as the operations breakout sessions were the fleet sessions, which began with Don Kelley, president of Vehicare, and the topic Vehicle Maintenance, In-House Versus Third-Party. Here, Kelley discussed the various benefits of outsourcing fleet shops as well as the disadvantages when outsourcing these tasks.

Next, the session welcomed Matt Ellis, principal of Precision Distribution Consulting, who spoke on Influencing Delivery Costs and Route Optimization. During this presentation, Ellis noted the benefits of using data to determine the type of trucks to use and routes to consider to not only streamline delivery but also to empower drivers.

The third fleet session was presented by Juan Corcino, director of fleets and operations for Manhattan Beer Distributors. During his presentation titled On the Grid – Navigating City Streets, Corcino noted the complexities that the wholesaler encounters while servicing channels in the largest metropolitan market in the United States: New York City.

Wrapping up the day was Phil Eatman, director of commercial sales for GPS Insights, with his presentation Data-Driven Decisions. In his presentation, Eatman highlighted how geographical positioning is more than fleet tracking but also is helping companies use data to minimize idling times and improve route efficiency.

The third day of the summit kicked off with the highly anticipated Ride & Drive, Parade of Vehicles and Equipment Demo at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Numerous fleet manufacturers came out to highlight their latest solutions and offered attendees the chance to drive these vehicles along the track. Material handling suppliers also offered in-person demos of their warehouse equipment for attendees.

After a lunch break, the general sessions resumed with a keynote presentation by Peter Skrbek, chief financial officer of Deschutes Brewery. In his presentation titled A Bi-Coastal Beer Business: Supply Chain Execution from West to East, Skrbek detailed the financial and emotional considerations that went into the craft brewer’s decision to invest in an East Coast brewery. The new operation in Roanoke, Va., will allow the brewer to cut down on rail costs and could open up opportunities for new East Coast markets, he noted.

The general session continued with the Green Fleets Panel. On the panel were Scott Perry, chief technology and procurement officer for Ryder System Inc.; Michael O’Hearn, vocational sales manager for Freightliner/Daimler North America; and Joseph Rudolph, director of business development for Roush Performance. Jeff Cioletti opened the panel with a state of the fuel industry report before moderating the panel. The panelists detailed the impact that alternative fuels have had on their respective fleet portfolios as well as what benefits they can offer to distributors.

Following a brief break, the fleet and operations breakout sessions resumed for the day.

The fleet sessions began with Ed Pritchard, senior vice president of fleet management and purchasing for Silver Eagle Distributors, with Leveraging Light-Duty Vehicles. In his presentation, Pritchard discussed the many details that the wholesaler considers when it comes to fleet management as well as the way that the company has leveraged its staff through the use of light-duty vehicles.

Next, the fleet sessions welcomed Brian Lundberg, operations manager for Atlas Distributing Inc., with Trailer Talk. In his presentation, Lundberg detailed the process that the wholesaler embarked on when expanding its fleet, noting that this occurred only a few years prior to the end of its current lease. He also highlighted the people, culture and equipment that played a role in the implementation and takeaways from its transition.

The fleet track concluded with a presentation from Christian Miller, president of beverage industry advisor and solutions specialist at Congruent Concepts and Solution, titled Lift Gate Delivery Strategies & Safety. Miller noted the importance of a go-to market strategy for direct-store-distribution operations and the ways wholesalers are using lift gates to aid their delivery businesses.

For the day’s operations breakout sessions, a presentation by Steve Golladay, owner of Total Systems Thinking Solutions, titled The New Automation Paradigm kicked off the day’s sessions. During his presentation, Golladay highlighted the growth of SKUs and the warehouse considerations that should be discussed to handle this growth. He also noted that automation myths might have dissuaded distributors in the past, but pointed out the best ways to determine whether automation now makes sense for an individual’s warehouse.

The next session welcomed Greg Stephens, director of facility management for Silver Eagle Distributors, and his presentation Warehouse Energy Efficiency & Waste Reduction Strategies. During his presentation, Stephens noted the energy efficiencies the wholesaler achieved through retrofitting energy-efficient lighting and water-reduction strategies.

To conclude the operations breakout sessions, the summit welcomed the Take Your Warehouse to the Next Level with a Warehouse Management Systems panel. Moderated by Carly West, sales and account manager for VIP, the panel featured Justin Tougas, WMS implementation specialist for VIP; Alexis Clark, director of operations for G&M Distributors Inc.; Keith Goldsmith, IT manager for WP Beverages; and Atlas Distributing’s Lundberg.

The panelists explored real-life examples of what the distributors encountered when incorporating WMS operations. Topics addressed included late-shift roles, union versus non-union workforces, accuracy benefits and more.

To close out the BevOps Fleet Summit, attendees took a tour of Breakthru Beverage Arizona. The tour of the 430,000-square-foot-facility highlighted the wholesaler’s vast SKU portfolio and showcased how it utilizes the latest technology such as voice-pick solutions, conveyors, sorting operations, enterprise resource planning as well as automated guided vehicles. BI