The Problem of Proliferating SKUs and Warehousing
As a business storing bulk quantities of product, adjusting to changes in supply and demand is an inevitable part of the game. Experienced inventory management teams may see these changes coming and adjust their operations in order to accommodate the changes. Problems may arise, however, when these changes are fast enough and take place at a large enough scale that warehouse managers need to overhaul their warehousing strategy to stay in rhythm with the fluctuations. Such has been the case with the growth of craft beer in the U.S. in the last decade. Breweries and beer wholesalers who were used to storing a relatively modest number of SKUs faced the challenge of expanding their number of SKUs five-fold in order to serve an increasingly picky beer consumer, and a skyrocketing number of clumsy, difficult-to-store drums of beer.
Along with the growth of beer varieties came the unpredictability of demand for specific beers. Breweries and liquor retailers were changing the availability of certain beers or brands weekly or even daily, so stacking large quantities of a single beer on a warehouse floor could be risky. Fast forward to 2016, and while the difficulties associated with an expanding number of SKUs are being handled by flexible warehousers and a gradual slow-down in the number of new breweries, we still hear from brewers eager to optimize their warehouse layout design in order to better manage their inventory and make their order fulfillment process more efficient.
The beer industry is known for being creative and adaptive to change. In response to the increase in demand for more varieties of craft beer, several technologies have been introduced. Warehouse managers that didn’t feel the need for warehouse management software prior to the boom began implementing it. Other warehouses began using mobile pallet racking or voice picking systems. Much of the time, our answer to the question of how to make a warehouse better cater to storing beer kegs is the same: keg flow racking.