Beer distributors keep pouring with dock appointment scheduling

COVID-19 is not impacting all industries equally. Indeed, anyone operating in the logistics space knows that some segments are struggling, while others are booming. 

The Opendock dock scheduling platform has a unique view into this peculiar phenomenon because it serves such a wide range of industries. The aggregate data from dock appointment volume across industries strongly illustrates this disparity.

One of the segments that has seen a boost in business as a result of the pandemic is beer distribution.

While the overall agriculture industry saw a 61% drop in appointment volume in April, the beverage industry — led by beer distributors — grew at a rate of 7%.

“Typically, in economic downturns, alcohol sales remain consistent with a healthy blend of consumer packaged and restaurants,” said Jeff Booth, product manager at Opendock. “But during the pandemic, distributors are seeing a high amount of variability depending on the business segments they service. Distributors with larger amounts of retail business are surging while those serving restaurants, bars and the events industry are experiencing a significant decline.”

Canyon Distributing, an alcohol and beverage distributor with facilities in Arizona, Alabama and Minnesota, is part of the Opendock network. They sell beer to restaurants and bars, as well as convenience, grocery and liquor stores. Scott Trotter, vice president of operations, said that while his transportation loads went down from March to April, his volume of sales has actually gone up. People are buying cases of beer instead of kegs.  

“Beer consumption is up,” Trotter said. “People are buying. I think all these people being forced to shelter in place are probably having small parties at their homes.”

Trotter explained the seasonality of beer sales — that large upticks occur before Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. 

“But right now,” Trotter noted, “we’re staying consistently high without those spikes. These last four weeks have felt like a holiday every day for us.”

For those warehouses that experience seasonal or pandemic-related increases in volume, like Canyon, Opendock can help by spreading loads throughout the day or week.

“Before I had Opendock, I would have 65 trucks lined up and waiting, blocking all the streets around my property and my neighboring businesses’ properties,” said Trotter. “They’d all show up at 5 in the morning and some wouldn’t get out until 3 in the afternoon. The trucks would double park and block every direction of traffic. When we started using Opendock, only about 14 trucks an hour were coming in, so the roads were never blocked anymore. It was an amazing change.”

Plus, dock scheduling can save vast amounts of time for warehouse support staff. Prior to adopting Opendock two years ago, Canyon Distributing was inundated with emails and phone calls, and handwritten calendars draped the walls. With Opendock, all of that went away. Carriers now have the ability to schedule their own appointments based on the availability grid that Trotter’s team has created. Today, Trotter and his team rarely have an email interaction to schedule trucks, other than solving a problem when a carrier can’t make or find an appointment.

While the pandemic has caused a divergence in demand among industries, it’s clear that retail beer distributors are benefiting. As people continue to adjust to staying at home more, it’s evident that beer will continue to be an important part of their lives.

Opendock is a centralized dock appointment booking platform that brings together carriers, brokers, distributors, 3PLs and traditional warehouses. It lets freight carriers and brokers book specific pickup or drop-off appointments with warehouses. All major carriers and brokers use the platform every day, including C.H. Robinson, Echo, J.B. Hunt, Estes, DHL and others. Additionally, some of the largest shippers in the world use the system, such as International Paper, Owens & Minor, Cargill, Pepsi, ADM and more. Over half a million appointments are booked each month through Opendock.