In recent years, the slow growth in beer consumption in Japan has led that country's breweries to rely on innovative new brands and increased product diversity to uphold their market share. The proliferation of new brands has caused problems in the beer trade, as both wholesalers and retailers have been faced with the problem of having to stock a much larger number of different beers, which limits the quantity of any one brand that a trader can store in the space available and thus increases the risk of running out of a popular brand. The brewing industry and the wholesale beer trade have thus had to try to make more frequent deliveries, made up of varying numbers of different brands in constantly changing proportions, in order to meet retailers' requirements. The Kirin Brewery Company's response to this situation involved the integration of customer order processing and distribution with production (so as to adjust the output of different brands to the market demand for them) and the construction of fully automatic distribution centres in which the storage, sorting and output of goods are controlled by the same computer system which handles customer orders and production. Flow diagrams illustrating the logistical problems of beverage distribution in Japan, the Kirin Brewery Company's overall logistics system, the movement of goods within one of the distribution centres (at Yokohama) and the centre's information system are presented together with a drawing of the centre. The Yokohama centre alone distributes some 8800 pallet loads every day to 600 different destinations, loading up to 35 vehicles per hour. The products handled include 180 items (brand/package combinations) of beer, 320 of soft drinks and 110 other products. Daily beverage output can be up to 2362 kegs and 23200 cases of bottled and canned products, totalling 4.9 million hl/year.
Keywords : automatic computer control distribution logistics management warehouse