Expansion at Glazer’s Beer and Beverage

Glazer’s Beer & Beverage is a leading distribution company centered in Texas, and also serves the surrounding states. In December the company broke ground on a new 115,000-square-foot distribution facility on 20 acres in Odessa, Texas. It will employee about 110 people.

I recently spoke with Matt Swilling, Glazer’s Beer & Beverage VP of operations, about that new facility, along with modern technologies, operational efficiencies and what’s affecting the modern beer distribution industry.

Beverage Wholesaler: What has allowed Glazer’s Beer & Beverage to continue growing?

Matt Swilling: It comes down to people. We have good people, and we put them in positions to succeed. Distribution is a people business: we don’t have any intellectual-property products. It’s about what people can do to promote our brands and connect with distribution networks.

We’ve had some pretty extensive growth and have acquired some good businesses. That brought in more leaders, more good people with a lot of skill and experience. We always try to make collaborative business decisions.

BW: At the same time, your company is spread out across five states. How do you address that challenge?

MS: In our large network we want to give the correct amount of decision power to the individuals at those branches in the different states. We want process, and we understand that there are unique, different challenges at each branch based on their region and state.

BW: How do you address issues like finding more drivers with CDL licenses?

MS: I wish there was some secret. In some parts, it really is a matter of supply and demand. You have to make sure you offer the right things to the employees, like the right fringe benefits. In some locations we’ve implemented a four-day workweek so drivers know they can be more with their families.

You have to be competitive and pay well. We’re doing constant recruiting, working with local colleges. It’s really about making Glazer’s a good place to work, with a good culture. Drivers who have lived through the booms and the busts of the oil business down here know that we’re a good, consistent company with good pay, and we’ll do good things for them and their family.

BW: What are some newer technologies that you’ve implemented?

MS: There are so many I can talk about. One is Omnitracs Telematics, installed in our large delivery fleet. Our analysis showed that if we reduced fuel spend by just 1%, it would pay for the units and the program. As a result, with Omnitracs, we have reduced auto times, reduced fuel spend and maintenance fees, and saved many, many more times than the cost of the service. It’s pretty remarkable.

It’s about the dollars, but it’s also about the safety of the employees. Using Omnitracs we can spot risky behaviors, which we obviously don’t want. It helps us promote a safer culture, which is to the benefit of the company as well.

We’re leveraging the full Omnitracs suite. That includes the insights tool, routing software, and dispatch tools.

BW: Tell me about the new Odessa facility.

MS: Omnitracs was part of that as well. The insights tool helped us determine the best possible location by looking at how many cases we were handling in that area, where the best routes are, what we can expect from a fuel expense standpoint. Obviously, we also had to look at what the available land was, and where our employee base is.

This location is in a little bit more eastern part of our territory. That’s allowed us to move a little farther from our centralized part of the territory.

BW: How has the craft beer explosion affected the industry?

MS: It’s generated a little bit of volume growth spread out across a lot of SKUs. From an operations standpoint, with slotting plans, capacity studies, and cumulative sales, craft beer adds another layer of complexity that wasn’t there five-to-ten years ago.

On the flip side, it adds more variety. And that can bring more people into the beer segment who weren’t exposed to it before. It’s a very fluid market and it’s continuing to grow.

Still, though, we don’t want to totally inundate ourselves with the number of new SKUs. We have to make sure we’re selecting products wisely. You have to take a close look at what makes up those craft companies. You have to pick the right partners.

Which brings it back to being a people business. Some of the people leading the craft companies have run other businesses. They know what it takes to get product mandates and chain commitments. So we know they have the pedigree to get it done. From an operating standpoint, it’s very important to me when someone has been there before like that.

Which doesn’t mean that people without that experience won’t be successful. But in my mind, it’s definitely a little indicator of success.

BW: Any other newer technologies you want to highlight as helpful?

We’ve rolled voice tech out at most of our big-volume sites. Anytime you can make a task hands-free and eyes-free, you’ll be more productive. With voice prompts and virtual pick paths you can go right to a location to confirm that it’s the right bin and right quantity. That’s reducing travel time, and has already increased productivity in some of our locations by 100%.

We couple that with doing what’s good for the employees. It allows them to make a little more money, which makes them happier. It benefits the employee, and it benefits Glazer’s as well.

We’re doing layer picking as well, which is part of the voice tech. That means we’re handling a lot fewer cases now physically. We pick with a forklift outfitted with an attachment. We’ve reduced out-and-out volume by 20%. That reduces handling, which reduces injury exposure.

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