Cisco and Zones protect beer with connected distribution center
Saving money and creating a connected beer center
Del Papa is a beer distribution company founded more than a century ago, and the company today distributes 10 million cases of beer annually from 30 suppliers. More than 375 employees work at their headquarters in Texas City, Texas, and two other distribution centers. The distributor looked to Cisco and Zones to build a new 27-acre IoT-connected headquarters with enhanced security.
“We wanted the new distribution center to have a single, secure network we could use for physical security, communications, collaboration and even monitoring the temperature of our inventory,” said Steve Holtsclaw, manager of information systems for Del Papa.
The company’s old building had separate networks for voice, data, video and physical security. Separate networks were expensive and got in the way of business with personnel only able to monitor video surveillance cameras from certain workstations. Additionally, Wi-Fi performance in the warehouse area wasn’t reliable enough for the voice-activated order-picking system.
Cisco and Zones create unified communications, security
Del Papa turned to Zones, a Cisco partner, to design a network that would connect previously unconnected people and things, according to a Cisco case study. To do so, Zones built a secure Cisco IP network to connect:
- Video surveillance cameras
- Physical access controls for gates and doors
- Wired and wireless IP phones
- Cisco TelePresence systems for in-person collaboration across offices
- Digital signage for employee communications
- Temperature sensors in the warehouse and keg vaults
The network is also flexible enough to connect any other systems that Del Papa adds in the future.
“The internet of things is here today,” said Stephen Lurie, vice president, internet of things for Zones. “For Del Papa Distributing, ‘connecting the unconnected’ helped to increase physical security and improve business processes.”
To protect employees and inventory, 60 high-definition Cisco Video Surveillance IP Cameras monitor the property perimeter, the 100,000-square-foot warehouse, office corridors and all delivery gates. Gates and doors lock and unlock automatically, according to a schedule. Zones integrated the video surveillance system, physical access control system and Cisco phones.
“If a door to a restricted area is open, employees receive an alert with a link to the video so they can see what’s going on,” said Holtsclaw. “And employees who monitor entrances can open doors by pressing a button on their Cisco Unified IP Phone.”
Phones in all three offices connect to Cisco Unified Communications Manager, at headquarters.
“Costs are much lower than they were when we had separate PBX systems in each location,” Holtsclaw said. “And the user experience is amazing, with great voice quality.”
In addition, employees no longer need to drive to another office for departmental meetings, performance reviews, quarterly all-company meetings and first-round job interviews. Instead, they can just click to start a Cisco TelePresence session with high-quality video and audio. Executives from Anheuser-Busch, one of the brands Del Papa distributes, have used a Cisco Telepresence system at headquarters to present sales forecasts and promotions to employees in the other locations.
“Of all the things we can do with our new network, TelePresence is the leadership’s favorite,” Holtsclaw said. “It’s made us more efficient because we can have an inperson experience without the time and costs of driving.”
Additionally, latest news and delivery schedules appear on nearly 30 digital signs in break rooms, cafeterias, hallways, workout rooms and delivery entrances.
The benefits of connecting
Connecting previously unconnected people and things has improved the safety and security of the company, according to the case study. It has also made business processes more efficient, improved customer service and increased daily shipping capacity.
Safe and Secure Environment
Video surveillance and physical access controls help to prevent theft. Designated personnel receive alerts when a door to a restricted area is opened. They just click a link to play video from a nearby camera. Video surveillance and physical access control also help employees feel safe. That’s a priority for the family-oriented company.
Great Customer Experience
“Now a sales rep with a last-minute order can reach someone in the warehouse who has a Cisco Unified Wireless IP Phone,” Holtsclaw said. “By the time the rep is back at the warehouse, the order is sitting in the bay.” When a phone call isn’t practical, the company is starting to use Cisco Jabber for instant messaging.
It has also become easier to answer customer questions about order status, billing and promotions. Any authorized employee in any office can connect to the company’s private cloud in Texas City to find the answers.
Improved Collaboration, Less Travel Time
Teams spread across the three locations can come together with high-quality video and audio.
“Now we can present our proposal over Cisco TelePresence,” said Holtsclaw. “We can all see each other’s faces to gauge reactions, and even digitally sign a contract during the call.”
Conducting departmental meetings with Cisco TelePresence saves still more travel time.
“Del Papa isn’t selling beer if the salesforce is driving to meetings,” Holtsclaw said. “Meeting with Cisco TelePresence gives reps more time to interact with their customers.”
More Efficient Warehouse Operations
Warehouse staff now build an average of 6.4% more cases each hour than they did in the old warehouse. The main reason is a Cisco wireless network that covers all of the 100,000 square foot facility. Warehouse personnel build orders using a wireless voice-activated picking system. It says out loud which items to pick, and records each item as the bar code is scanned.
What’s next for the connected beer distribution center?
Now Del Papa is starting a pilot using Cisco Video Surveillance IP Cameras on trucks. The video will upload automatically over the Wi-Fi network whenever a truck returns to the yard.
Zones coordinated the infrastructure upgrade, the move to the new headquarters facility and site-to-site replication across Del Papa’s private cloud.
Instead of 60 physical servers in three locations, Del Papa now has a private cloud at headquarters. Forty virtual servers fit on just three blade servers.
The servers are hosted on Vblock preintegrated infrastructure, combining Cisco Unified Computing System, EMC storage and VMware.
“By consolidating infrastructure, we reduced energy consumption by 9%,” Holtsclaw said.