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Managing Multiple Warehouse Locations.

Wholesalers, to get straight to the point, are buying other wholesalers. In many cases, the target companies are competitors serving contiguous or overlapping market areas, but in other cases the targets are same-brand wholesalers in widely scattered geographic areas.

No matter which type of integration your company is experiencing, vertical or horizontal, managing multiple warehouse locations from a technology standpoint becomes a unique challenge. Route accounting systems, computer networks, and database architectures must be designed with an eye toward information access from a variety of locations over a variety of connections. How is this objective achieved?

One to Many

Designing your technology architecture across multiple warehouse locations is the most important tactical decision you will make other than a product logistics plan, i.e. whether you will receive product at one location and transfer to others, or receive product at all locations and transfer later according to code-date mis-matches.

In many ways, the same logistics decision must be made with your data, i.e. whether to centralize it in one place and "serve" it on demand to remote locations, or allow each location to house its own data. Personally, I believe the former method is more efficient and effective. By centralizing your data and core applications at your headquarters, you gain complete access and control over your information, processes procedures, security rules, and access levels. In addition, the data can be maintained and backed up more easliy in one location.

It's the connection, stupid

When housing all of your data and applications in one centralized location, one of two basic connection types must be decided upon: 1. a reliable direct broadband connection from your headquarters to your branches, sometimes called frame relay or leased line, or 2. A reliable broadband connection from your headquarters to the internet and your branches to the Internet, called a virtual private network.

The benefits of a frame relay connection is that it is a more direct connection between and among your branches, and generally considered more secure. The problem with frame relay is that it is rather expensive.

A virtual private network makes use of the public Internet, along with encryption software at each site, to transfer data. Virtual private networks are more inexpensive and easier to set up, although some say you sacrifice security and reliablilty.

However, whichever connection you choose, it is usually best to create a backup connection so that in any event you can access your data.

Applications and Data on Demand

Of course, to make your data and applications avaliable to remote locations on demand, they must be configured to run on an application server. Remember the days of mainframes and green screen dumb terminals. Well, they're back.

Only this time you can run Windows-based graphical programs remotely on a dumb terminal (now called thin clients) using thin client/server networks such as Citrix or Windows Terminal Server. If you are running a PC network in your business, each PC should be able to access all of your applications, even route accounting applications from your server, even if the server is in Idaho Springs and the PC is In Austin. Distance means little these days. It is only constrained by the quality of the connection you can achieve at both locations.

Another solution to remote access problems is pure internet computing. Wouldn't it be great if somebody created a purely web-based route accounting package that could be accessed from anywhere? What if your pre-salespeople, your chains buyers, and your drivers could access product and account information from a wireless device and place orders over the Internet? What if they could check retail pricing on the same device? This is where the future is leading us in the beverage industry very quickly.


Data are becoming transparent with respect to physical location. Why would you warehouse data in many locations when you can centralize it in one and manipulate it from anywhere? Proper backup techniques, security encryption software, fast connections, and powerful application servers make this very thing possible.

Harry C. Schuhmacher is the v.p. at Information Technology Partners, a new wireless handheld firm.
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Author:Schuhmacher, Harry C.
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Nov 27, 2000
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