Bottlers Quench Thirst with Technology

A look at beverage companies that are using automation and supply chain software to improve operations.

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Today’s beverage distributors are faced with a number of challenges—SKU proliferation, labor shortages, tough competition at the shelf—to name a few. Many distributors are turning to automated solutions and supply chain technology to address these challenges.

One such company is Cristalia Premium Water. With the growing demands in beverage distribution the Puerto Rico-based company thrives on the booming Caribbean tourist trade and the region’s need for clean, safe water. A namesake brand and successful private-label bottling division have helped boost its revenue, which is up 400 percent since 1999.

Recently, high labor costs and inefficiencies in packaging operations were making it increasingly difficult to meet demand while maintaining profits. Cristalia’s Ponce, Puerto Rico bottling plant manually palletizes four lines of bottled water—shrink-wrapped trays of 16-ounce bottles, multi-packs, five-gallon cooler bottles and one-gallon jugs. However, Terrell and his team knew that the 20,000-square-foot facility only had the space to automate one line.

The one-gallon-jug line was the most difficult to palletize manually, with its unstable, 27-pound cases forcing employees to take frequent breaks. Four employees worked in an hourly rotation on this line, while the 16-ounce bottle and multi-pack lines only required one worker each.

Terrell also noted that the one-gallon jugs were the plant’s highest producer—filling a pallet every two and a half minutes. The team calculated that automating this line would give them the greatest benefits in terms of labor savings and increased efficiency.

Cristalia’s cramped warehouse did not have the space for the accumulation conveyor required for a standard high-speed palletizer. The company turned to automated material handling solutions provider FKI Logistex, St. Louis, and its GS100 series case palletizer for an affordable way to automate its line within the space constraints of the warehouse.

The compact footprint of the GS100 series eliminates the need for a long infeed conveyor and allows fork truck access to all points of the facility, including incoming materials, warehousing, production discharge and outgoing product—without intruding on personnel.

Working with FKI Logistex and Puerto Rico-based packaging equipment representative Inter-Strap Packaging, Cristalia chose the GS140 model, which features a pallet dispenser and a full-pallet handling discharge for complete automation. The GS140 gives Cristalia the ability to palletize at rates of up to 30 cartons per minute and includes a touch-screen operator-interface terminal (OIT) pattern utility.


The FKI Logistex GS140 system has enabled Cristalia to reduce labor costs and heavy lifting, while producing an extra 1,000 cases every shift, for a capital investment of less than $100,000. The GS140 palletizer also fits completely inside a standard 40-foot shipping container, which saved the company approximately $14,000 on overseas shipping costs alone.

“With the new FKI Logistex palletizing system we reduced labor costs by 25 percent and increased our total volume by 20 percent,” says Tom Terrell, Cristalia’s director of manufacturing operations.. “The most important gain came from continuous uptime and uninterrupted shifts—now the line never stops.”

According to Terrell, Cristalia experienced a six-month ROI with the new palletizer. “For the same overhead costs, we’re getting more cases out the door,” he says.

With the new palletizing system, the local bottler is well on its way to meeting its goal of becoming a $100 million bottled water marketer to the Caribbean and the U.S. in the next 10 years.

In Cristalia’s new system, an existing line shaft roller conveyor brings cases from the one-gallon-jug production line to the infeed of the GS140. The palletizer forms 16-case layers, with each case containing three one-gallon jugs.

The GS140 then builds the load on the chain conveyor, with either three or four layers depending on the customer specifications. When the load is complete, it is automatically discharged from the load-build cavity and an empty pallet is conveyed into position.

The GS140 completely automates the line with a 10-pallet capacity lift and separate pallet dispenser, using 40- by 48-inch wooden pallets. Empty pallets are loaded by fork truck into the empty pallet dispenser, which automatically feeds another pallet to the pre-stage position for the next load. The GS140 includes a touch-screen operator-interface terminal (OIT) pattern utility. Conveyor brings cases from the one-gallon-jug production line to the infeed of the FKI Logistex GS140 palletizer.


Other beverage distributors, such as Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers and J.J. Taylor, a beer and wine distributor based in Jupiter, FL, are turning to enterprise and supply chain solutions to improve their operations and optimize their distribution networks.

“In order to meet our growth and efficiency objectives, we knew we needed to make a change to our business processes and operations,” says Roger Tovar, president of Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottlers.

The company is deploying a suite solutions from Retalix at three distribution centers. The solution suite spans a range of business processes for the bottling company, including: enterprise resource planning; advanced warehouse inventory movement and management; business analytics; product delivery and invoice reconciliation; yard management and dock scheduling; a self-service customer Web portal; and voice technology for warehouse associates.

The Retalix solution suite includes Retalix Power Enterprise, Power Warehouse, Power Analyzer and Power PDA Sales, as well as Retalix Yard Management and Dock Scheduling and Retalix Power Net.

J.J. Taylor has selected Manhattan ILS: Integrated Logistics Solutions, built on Microsoft. NET, to optimize its distribution network. In addition, J.J. Taylor selected the Manhattan Supply Chain Intelligence (SCI) application to provide at-a-glance insight into its supply chain performance.

The solutions will be installed by working with Manhattan implementation partner Blue Horseshoe in multiple J.J. Taylor distribution centers located throughout Florida and Minnesota.

“We chose to partner with Manhattan and Blue Horseshoe to support our market growth as well as the onset of rapid SKU proliferation,” says Bruce Whitely, chief information officer, J.J. Taylor.

The Manhattan ILS platform uses optimization techniques to improve the flow of goods throughout supply chains, enabling companies to tie together processes, data and workflows to increase order accuracy, improve deliveries and gain total visibility into inventory. The solution is optimized for the Microsoft platform, and uses the complete Microsoft.

Manhattan SCI enables complete, consistent and integrated business intelligence for companies by providing at-a-glance insight into supply chain performance. With customizable reports presenting powerful analytics, companies can monitor the performance of key elements of their supply chain network from one intuitive workbench.