MANAGER: Greg Beck
TITLE: Transportation manager
FLEET: Standard Beverage, Lawrence, KS
OPERATION: Distribution company operating 36 medium-duty trucks, three highway tractors
You don't need to be a longtime veteran of the wine and spirits distribution industry to know that trucks and drivers are perhaps one of the most critical elements for success in this particular business.
Drivers are the “face” of any such distribution company, as they are the people the customer sees every day. Yet the trucks are just as important, for without them cases of liquor, wine, and beer would never reach their final destination.
Yet fleets in this work quickly realize something else, too: Operating many different brands of trucks can eat up precious maintenance dollars, even for those fleets outsourcing maintenance to a third party.
In order to improve efficiency and lower the costs associated with its distribution operations, Standard Beverage planned a major change to its fleet of 36 medium-duty trucks and three highway tractors, one that highlighted how critical maintenance concerns are to a distribution fleet.
“We just wanted to deal with one manufacturer's warranty, one source of parts, and one dealer as a reference for our truck specifications,” explained Greg Beck, transportation manager for Standard. “It just makes things simpler.”
Beck is a new arrival at Standard, on the job roughly six months, but right away he understood the reasoning behind the company's plan to switch to one vehicle brand. The company began standardizing its fleet of 22-ft. box trucks, including four refrigerated units, four years ago withtrucks, mirroring a switchover to a new distribution system.
“We're trying to build more flexibility and efficiency into how we deliver our products to the customer,“ Beck explained. “That plan relies on redesigning the trucks making local deliveries, as well as [rethinking] how we send our products out from our warehouses to those trucks.“
Founded in 1949, Standard has become one of the state's largest wine and spirits wholesalers, with franchise rights to distribute top brands such as Crown Royal, Smirnoff, and Bacardi along with a stable of micro-brewed,national and international beers that include Samuel Adams, Guinness, Heineken and Sapporo. Delivering an average of 2.5 million cases per year, Standard operates from a main warehouse in Lawrence plus two smaller locations in Wichita and Dodge City. Ryder handles the maintenance.
Standard's fleet reformulation relies on “demountable“ 17-ft. truck bodies. With this system, deliveries for specific routes can be preloaded at the Lawrence warehouse, with the bodies either hydraulically winched onto the medium-duty trucks there or loaded onto one of three 53-ft. trailers (each pulled by a Kenworth T660 tractor) for delivery to local drivers operating out of Wichita and Dodge City. The longest route these medium-duty trucks run is 400 mi.roundtrip, with each able to carry up to 700 cases, Beck added.
“Ryder handled the [power take off] and hydraulic loading/unloading system retrofit on the trucks for us, but we needed one make of truck in order to keep our retrofit and maintenance costs under control,“ he explained.
He added that Standard worked closely with MHC Kenworth in Kansas City, Mo., to develop a truck specification that would not only enable the trucks to last an expected 10 yrs. and about 300,000 mi. before trade-in, but get better fuel economy as well. As a result, its T370 trucks come equipped with the Paccar PX-8 engine rated at 260 hp. at 800 lbs.-ft. of torque and married to an Allison 5-spd. automatic with 4.88 rear end ratios. They are geared to run at a lower rpm in order to attain better fuel efficiency.