Case Study McWilliam's Family Winemakers

The word pioneer is bandied around with great flippancy nowadays. However, one of the pioneering and most successful winemaking families in the Australian industry is McWilliam’s Family Winemakers. Passed down through six generations, McWilliam’s has evolved from Samuel planting his first vines on the outskirts of Corowa, NSW in 1877 to the successful international business that it has become today.

In its 135+ years of business, McWilliam’s has developed several premium vineyards in significant Australian viticultural areas including the Hunter Valley, Hilltops and Riverina in NSW; Coonawarra in South Australia; and Margaret River in Western Australia. McWilliam’s National Logistics Manager Gary Whitehouse said the strategic expansion of the family philosophy at McWilliam’s was a big part of the company’s success.

“Throughout the last century and well into this one, McWilliam’s has branched out into the regions, brands and styles that wine lovers seek, showcasing more than 135 years of innovation and exploration,” Whitehouse commented. “In 2012 alone, McWilliam’s Wines was awarded 45 trophies and 988 medals at wines shows across Australia. The family winery is also passionate about the relationships they have formed over six generations, all important factors to ensuring future for generations to come.”

The long history of McWilliam’s is intrinsically tied to the history and development of the NSW and Australian wine industries and McWilliam’s has continued to grow throughout its history, an amazing feat for such an old company. In fact, the company’s warehouse continues to transport between 200-300 pallets per day from its warehouses. Working on the global stage since 1935, McWilliam’s is a true Australian success story.

With such huge volumes of wine being moved every day, McWilliam’s realised that they needed an advanced and experienced warehouse management system in their Chullora warehouse. Following the decision from interstate 3PL partner Bevchain to use the Paperless WMS, McWilliam’s decided to implement the system with the go-live taking place in June 2012. Whitehouse said that the reason that they decided to go with the Paperless system was due to the fact that he “liked their practical hands-on approach”.

“We currently use Bevchain as our 3PL distribution provider in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide and they implemented Paperless Warehousing so it was a natural fit for McWilliam’s to install the same process in our Chullora warehouse and distribution centre in Sydney,” Whitehouse said. “This also provides both companies with a synergy for future developments such as full integration between the Paperless Warehousing system and our host ERP system.”

“The overwhelming driver was inventory management and the opportunity to process sales orders more efficiently to meet the changing ordering patterns of our customers with smaller volume orders placed more frequently. The Board had the desire to centralise distribution to our major customers from our Chullora warehouse and distribution centre and this could not have been achieved without changes such as the racking project and Paperless Warehousing.”

The project was extensive, changing several processes in the warehouse to implement the system. The first stage of the project saw pallet racking installed throughout the warehouse, making it possible for the Paperless WMS to meet McWilliam’s picking requirements. The next step in the project involved implementation of a strategy for an efficient layout by SKU’s (Stock Keeping Units) and the creation of master files to accommodate the strategies. The third and final phase of the implementation was the training and go-live implementation. In addition to the Paperless Warehousing implementation, McWilliam’s utilised the services of Dematic, one of the providers that Paperless recommends for hardware solutions.

As a leader in the winemaking field, McWilliam’s is in a unique position as the supply chain becomes increasingly important for the growth of the business as the warehousing and logistics industry tries to keep up with the times. Whitehouse said that although the changes to the industry are not necessarily new, but there are plenty of challenges for McWilliam’s to deal with in the near future.

“Our main business is quite complex and has many challenges, including national and international supply of dry goods and consumables, a duopoly in glass supply and supplying to packaging sites around Australia and New Zealand,” Whitehouse admitted. “A large range of products and SKU’s adds complexity to our warehouse and distribution network and the changing customer behaviours, e.g. smaller volume orders, more often, creates inefficiencies within our supply chain.”

“From a domestic market perspective, growth and driving value back into the category is the main challenge and focus. Utilising insights, strong brands, innovation and putting quality first will ensure we deliver to the expectations of the consumer. Within the export market, the strong Australian dollar and pressure from global oversupply continue to be the major challenges. Ensuring we have the right distribution footprint and support in established markets while developing a presence and strategy for emerging markets will ensure future success.”

Seeking a WMS that could offer increased inventory accuracy and data integrity as well as picking efficiencies and discipline, the customisable Paperless Warehousing solution ticked all the boxes. Since implementing the WMS, the McWilliam’s DC had seen productivity improved by 10% initially, which has continued to improve as some of the processes were fine tuned. Inventory accuracy improved by 15%, with the system providing accurate data enabling McWilliam’s to control vintage changes and out of stock items. Picking accuracy also saw a 10% improvement.

“Improved inventory management and data accuracy has provided a better service level for our customers, both internally and externally,” Whitehouse said. “More efficient processes for receiving, putaway, replenishment, picking and despatch have also provided our customers with improved service levels. The overall warehouse and distribution process can now handle peaks and troughs without relying on additional resources. Maintaining good housekeeping and safety protocols has also improved from the combination of the racking project and the disciplines required by Paperless Warehousing.”