Beer and wine producers represent a growing segment of the beverage industry today. According to the Brewers Association, the number of breweries in the United States is at a 25-year high. This growth is attributed to the popularity of craft beers across every demographic. Craft beers are produced by small and mid-size breweries as well as by large well-known producers that have introduced artisanal beers to meet consumer demand.
The wine industry is also burgeoning, with national winery association WineAmerica reporting more wineries in the United States today than ever before. The expansion in the number, sizes and types of products has made logistics and distribution increasingly more complex and challenging.
More SKUs, Greater Challenge
With more products per customer order, drivers responsible for direct store deliveries to route-based retailers can find it more difficult to keep track of all the SKUs for sequential deliveries to the required locations. That’s why it’s essential for drivers to plan their routes more strategically to ensure delivery of the right order to the right place at the right time.
Adding to the complexity is the need for an accurate paper trail, which is a key part of drivers’ administrative duties. Upon delivery, drivers must be prepared to issue a receipt and take the next order. In addition, since craft beers are often freshness dated, they must also account for returns of any products that may have fallen out of date. Tracking this paperwork and presenting receipts and other documents in a clear, consistent and readable format is extremely important to maintaining a professional business image.
Like most distributors, beer and wine distributors operate in a competitive arena with tight profit margins, so delivery speed and efficiency are extremely important. To ensure maximum driver productivity, management needs to be sure that routes are optimized across each assigned area of the city or region. Their drivers should be trained to load trucks strategically, based on these optimized routes, and to unload in such a way that no time is wasted.
Route management and accounting best practices not only save time for direct store delivery drivers and store managers, but are also good for business. Hassle-free delivery service accompanied by swift and accurate accounting is a great way to gain and retain customers while keeping cash flow healthy.
Mobile Technology Supports Delivery
To improve delivery time and serve more customers in a day while reducing hand-written errors and improving cash flow, many beverage distributors have switched from using pen and paper to highly automated, computer-based systems that include handhelds, laptops and mobile printers. To better manage this mobile workplace, they can implement integrated route management software developed specifically to help reduce operating costs, increase driver productivity and improve customer service.
An essential companion to route management solutions, mobile wireless printers provide the necessary accounting paper trail in a direct and immediate way. Today’s drivers are expected to make more deliveries per day to keep up with demand, and well-designed truck-mounted and/or handheld mobile printers deliver the speed and reliability to support this demand.
Next-Generation Mobile Printers
The trend in mobile printers for direct store delivery has been toward faster, more durable devices. Depending on their printing requirements, beer and wine distributors may want to evaluate 4-inch to 8.5-inch-wide mobile printers that can be handheld, hung from a belt or shoulder strap, or mounted in the vehicle.
Four-inch models can be used, for example, to print out delivery receipts and invoices and returned goods receipts and labels, plus any pre-sales documentation such as sales order history, product promotions and special deals. Full-page printers are ideal for printing delivery confirmation, receipts and invoices, as well as larger documents such as contracts, price lists, promotions, planograms and route maps.
Desirable features to look for in mobile printers include fast printing speeds to simplify accounting and keep drivers on schedule; thermal printing technology with no messy inks or toners to deal with; durable, rugged construction; printers that are easy to carry, operate and maintain by non-technical drivers; and a solid manufacturer’s warranty.
As the world of distribution continues to evolve and present new challenges, leading solution providers will continue to develop advances in mobile wireless technology.