Buffalo Trace Distillery was using approximately 240,000 square feet of conventional warehouse storage, which mostly consisted of bulk storage with limited pallet racking. This included 50,000 square feet of off-site contractor space, and seven floors of space for bourbon barrel storage aging. The distillery handled and shipped a majority of inventory from a 51,840 square-foot main distribution center, equipped with eight docks with 21-foot-high ceilings. The distribution center was replenished from seven on-site locations and an off-site contractor location. Yet, the replenishment process included more than nine movements of the same pallet from the production line to loading the customer outbound trailer. Pallet movement was by trailer and often consisted of moving pallets from second floor storage via floor openings to the loading dock. This was not efficient in terms of time, cost and risk associated with inventory damage during movement.

In addition, consecutive high-volume shipping days resulted in intense efforts to replenish prime locations within the main distribution center. Due to limited space, a high product occupancy rate, and short delivery window, Buffalo Trace Distillery faced challenges in meeting its first in first out (FIFO) goals. Another drawback in the distillery’s operations was the practice of double stacking pallets in storage. These pallets’ weight often exceeded 2,000 lbs., so storing them long term was not optimal.

In need of improving its storage capacity and streamlining its materials handling processes, Buffalo Trace Distillery sought to build a new, conventional warehouse with a traditional rack system. However, when it found that available space was limited, the distillery looked to an automated warehouse with an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS).