Exotec: Warehouse Automation & The British Alcohol Industry

Simon Jones, senior sales executive at manufacturer Exotec believes warehouse automation is the British alcohol industry's future. Here he explains why

Hi Simon. Please Introduce yourself and your role

I look after Exotec’s existing and prospective customers in the UK and Ireland. Over the past 18 years, I’ve worked with companies to implement new technology into their supply chain and logistics operations, aiming to enhance productivity and customer service. Prior to joining Exotec, I worked for industry leaders such as Honeywell, Vocollect, and robotics solutions provider 6 River Systems. This experience has equipped me with a deep understanding of the challenges within retail, e-commerce, and warehousing, along with practical expertise in leveraging disruptive technology to address these challenges.

You say the British alcohol business has experienced a ‘period of revolution’. Could you please expand on this and how it’s impacting consumer decision-making?

In recent years, not only has the alcohol we drink changed thanks to the rise of craft beers, artisanal wine and spirits and even low- or non-alcoholic options, but many consumers have been shifting away from pubs and bars. Instead, they’re leaning towards at-home drinking experiences, which has been fuelled by e-commerce - and therefore access to a huge variety of drink options – and the cost-of-living crisis. There’s also a mindset shift around alcohol for many Brits too, as people turn to low- and no-alcohol products, reflecting increasingly health-conscious attitudes. Coupled with the current economic climate, this means that when they do want to drink, customers are spending more time finding the ‘right’ product, choosing quality over quantity.

How can alcohol wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors use automation to adapt?

The surge in options for consumers has created a competitive landscape for manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers alike. After years of relying on “Franken-systems” which combine mechanisation, pick-and-packing, and intensive labour to move heavy, fragile, and expensive cases, alcohol distributors have hit a wall. The answer to overcoming this is flexible warehouse automation. Businesses need to be able to prepare and distribute orders quickly, more efficiently and at a lower cost per transaction in order to maximise the opportunities the current climate presents, or risk falling short. In a warehouse environment dealing with home delivery fulfilment as well as store deliveries, there is a need for flexibility and the ability to scale, while ensuring that order cycle times are minimised. This is especially important as many retailers offer same- or next-day delivery on mixed cases of wine, beer and spirits. 

For B2B wholesalers selling full cases of alcohol who want or need to shift towards direct-to-consumer sales, automation provides plenty of opportunity to overcome the disruption this might otherwise cause in a warehouse where traditional picking methods are in use. This would enable them to deliver mixed cases or individual items right to people’s doorsteps, opening up new revenue streams with ease.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities the British alcohol business faces with automation?

There are so many benefits to upgrading traditional warehouse operating systems, from overcoming labour shortages and improving health and safety, to improving fulfilment operations.Companies that adopt robotic goods-to-person automation will continue to become more resilient against the challenges affecting the industry today. From reducing dependence on manual labour and boosting productivity, to maximising space within the warehouse, these innovative systems position businesses to meet the ever-changing market demands now and grow even faster in the future. Ultimately, beer, wine, and spirits distributors must automate warehouse distribution or risk being left behind by competitors that can prepare and distribute orders faster, more efficiently, and at lower cost.

What are your plans for the next twelve months?

At Exotec, we have some exciting plans for the coming year. In the past couple of years, we’ve expanded globally and built some incredible momentum in new and existing markets. So we’re looking forward to seeing continued growth and success.


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