Distillery gets real-time tracking of historical inventory

John Dewar does away with 25-year old paper trail by deploying mobile supply chain technology in the warehouse.

A leading whisky producer is improving visibility of its stock to better track the millions of casks it uses and stores for as long as twenty five years.

Glasgow-based John Dewar and Sons, part of the Bacardi Group, has developed it new cask management system to produce premium blends effectively and increase the productivity of its warehouse staff, whose job it is to find specific casks in a warehouse that may hold as many as 72,000 at any one time.

Up until last year Dewar's had relied on a paper-based system to identify the location of each brand of whisky and its age, with the added challenge that whisky is held as bonded stock, and therefore Customs and Excise require details of all its movements.

John McKee, John Dewar and Sons IT manager told IT PRO the company used a new warehouse building programme as an opportunity to deploy new mobile warehouse tracking technology.

"Our previous paper-based system didn't tell you where casks were in the warehouse," he said. "And, stacked in columns that are seven casks high and rows of columns that are eight-deep, it wasn't very effective."

Dewar's worked with distributor RealTime DC, to identify a solution that would meet allow it to track casks effectively in its warehouse, speed the process for warehouse operatives and comply with exacting health and safety, as well as customs regulations.

RealTime was already working with Dewar's on its main enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, so the company was keen to work with the provider in the implementation of the cask tracking system.

The system deployed needed to operate within European regulations governing ATmosphere EXplosives (ATEX) and therefore comprises wireless access points installed in ATEX1 approved enclosures and a wireless switch containing security measures that includes smart intrusion detection and protection against denial-of-service attacks, so the IT team at Dewar's can be sure that the network is always safe from intruders.

The team at Dewar's chose the ATEX-compliant Motorola mobile computers for use in the warehouses because of its wireless capabilities, built-in barcode scanner and rugged form.

A wireless device would enable a cable-free environment in the warehouses and therefore ensure that Dewar's was compliant with regulations concerning fireproofing. The MC9000 allows employees to have the freedom to move around the warehouse for example to check cask information, while still having access to the same information that would be available if they were sitting in the office.

"Now it's in place, we are so impressed with the way it is working and the time it is saving us, we are looking to roll it out to another five newly-built warehouses," said McKee. "In addition, we are also looking into using the system to control all of our stock, including bottles and labels, as well as the casks."

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