One week in to WineDirect's new Napa Valley fulfillment center, SVP of Operations Karin Ballestrazze answers questions about how things are going and what wineries can expect from the new facility.
You're one week in to the new fulfillment center. How has it been going?
I’m thrilled to report that the first week has been a huge success. We’ve migrated a number of clients over the past two weekends into the new facility and everything has gone smoothly. Our clients’ wine is safe and secure, all systems are performing well, and our team is loving the new workspace. In short, we are completely on-track for a seamless transition.
What prompted the upgrade to a new fulfillment center in the first place?
Although our existing facility performs at an exceptional level - we had a 99.98% order accuracy rate in 2016 - we are constantly looking for ways to improve. Thanks to companies like Blue Apron and Dollar Shave Club, consumers’ expectations have sky-rocketed in recent years. So we are doing everything we can to give wineries access to tools to enable them to deliver the level of service their customers demand.
How does the new facility help wineries do that?
One way is greater personalization. We can now execute customized packaging on an order-by-order basis, which gives our winery clients the ability to truly infuse their brand into every package. Whether it’s a branded box topper, a velvet box or special collateral, each shipment can be completely personalized. Another is flexibility. Our new systems enable our clients to easily accommodate last-minute customer requests – like a change to a wine club order. This means our clients can say “yes” to more things, and create an even better consumer experience.
What about temperature control and storage conditions?
We take our role as caretakers of our clients’ wine very seriously. In addition to robust temperature and humidity controls, we also meet food-grade storage standards and have reduced the handling of our clients' wine to an absolute minimum. With our new system, our clients' wine is only handled twice: once when it arrives at the facility and once when it ships. Each day, intelligent software identifies how many bottles of a particular SKU are needed across orders and that quantity is sent to the picking line. The wine then arrives on a conveyor to be matched into its order box. This greatly reduces the number of times any single bottle is moved or handled, as well as the potential for errors or damage.
With this new technology how do you make sure your staff is trained and knows how to use everything correctly?
We have been engaged in rigorous testing and training for the past 2 months. The summer is a slower time for shipping, so we took advantage of that to get our team fully trained. We have been running full end-to-end testing for weeks with batches of 4-500 test orders where we replicate all steps on our system, except putting the wine on a truck. I'm thrilled to say that testing went extremely well and that our first week shipping live orders has been flawless.
What about your quality control process?
We’ve added new Quality Assurance (QA) capabilities that give our clients even further control over packing instructions. As each order comes through, the QA specialist uses an interactive screen that takes them through a customized checklist. Sometimes, this will be a simple SKU check and a packing slip. If you have special packaging, such as tissue wrap, ribbons, velvet boxes, etc., it will show an image of how your wine box is supposed to be assembled, complete with placement of your insert, accessories, or branded toppers. This allows greater creativity in the “in-box” experience, and our clients can be certain that their customers will have the desired experience when they open their wine.
Any other new capabilities?
We are pleased to now offer long-term storage to our clients, which we were not able to do before given our space constraints. Storage space in Napa and Sonoma is super tight, and many of the larger players have high minimum quantities which is prohibitive for small-to-medium wineries. We can accommodate smaller amounts (minimum 1 pallet per SKU), and it's easy (and free) for our clients to move that wine into fulfillment when they need to.
How can people see the new fulfillment center in action?
Our team is happy to offer tours and we'll also be hosting an open house this fall (make sure you sign up for our email list to get the invite!). You can also check out behind the scenes videos and photos on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Here's a peek at the very first live package we shipped last week: