This is the fifth installment in a series titled Voices of WineDirect, where members of our team will discuss what excites them about WineDirect and the future of winery direct to consumer (DTC) channels.
With peak shipping season around the corner, we’ve connected with two leaders in our Operations Department, Dennis Shen and Danny Sanchez overseeing Fulfillment Ops at our state-of-the-art warehouse facility located in American Canyon (referred to as WDI). Let's get to know them!
Dennis, Assistant Director of Operations: My career leading up to WineDirect spanned across multiple industries, but never veered far from operations, spending many years in logistics and ecommerce. My curiosity and need for knowledge eventually lead me to Amazon, where I was able to launch northern California’s largest delivery station DSF8, not far from WineDirect Headquarters in Richmond, CA. My history at Amazon was also one of the reasons I chose to join WineDirect. While similar on a smaller scale, I saw vast potential of what it could be, and am excited to see how we transform the wine industry.
Danny, Assistant Director of Operations: I joined WineDirect in January, working out of the American Canyon distribution center. I started my career in the wine industry 7 years ago working with Biagi Bros focused on warehousing, distribution, and transportation. After 3 years with Biagi Bros my journey continued with Treasury Wine Estates. Sonoma Bottling Center is where I spent 3½ years leading multiple departments; Packaging (bottling production), cellar, and logistics. Driven to expand my knowledge in the wine industry I decided to join WineDirect and educate myself in the Direct-to-Consumer business. The last couple of months have been challenging yet a fun adventure.
In a catch-up chat with Dennis & Danny, we discussed how the company handled the shipping surge of last year, while managing growth and technology adoption. We also heard their top tips for wineries as peak shipping season approaches.
The growth in 2020 was staggering. How did WineDirect's Fulfillment Teams handle it?
The Operations team experienced record growth numbers last year: therefore, Operations soon adjusted by adding a 3rd shift. This allowed the team to execute the demand with the partnership of temp agencies. In preparation for 2021 peak shipping season (referred to as ‘OND’ in short for October, November, December in the industry) we have new strategies that we look forward to implementing. Over the summer we have been working on a 7-day operation schedule that will be able to effectively execute the forecasted numbers. In addition, we are actively working on hiring seasonal personnel into our WineDirect family.
We enable flawless fulfillment and delivery for our winery clients with additional transfer frequency and same-day shipping cutoffs and optimal delivery speed. Our client facing tools provide accurate, easily available tracking data and innovative technology that cuts down on data entry, saving a great deal of legwork.
What improvements to technology have you and your teams been working on to support the recent growth in DTC shipments?
It is an exciting time for WDI operations as we look to incorporate new technology to our current processes. The team is extremely excited to start using new Android handhelds WT6300 and Proglove wearable scanners. This will allow the team to have handhelds that will be faster, more ergonomic and increase output. For operations we are looking to incorporate pack to order stations at WDI that will allow for flexibility to pack into a container(s) then print the shipping label, delivering a solution to containerization challenges.
For our winery clients, we have developed a new Fulfillment Portal that has had the web tier completely rebuilt using the latest technologies from Microsoft and Google. This new portal has many improvements a small set of which are charts, better speed and full mobile device compatibility. Coming September 2021!
How does the Fulfillment Operations team balance the need for speed and accuracy, with also the flexibility that is required from wineries with requests such as special packaging and gift sets?
Throughout the past 6 months, WDI warehouse has gone through a face lift through lean practices including the introduction of 5S, a workplace organization method. This method requires our teams to maximize warehouse space utilization and efficiency, review and change processes to reduce downtime and extra processing, and study labor time to calculate and monitor output to establish optimum staffing ratios, and much more. During the summer, we also implemented our Employee Cross-Training project, so all our employees are ready to maneuver and take on the challenge, regardless of how orders hit us. Demand drives the types of order we receive. It’s only natural that we adapt to the demand.
What can a winery do to best prepare for peak season (OND) in terms of DTC Fulfillment?
With peak season right around the corner, WDI will be brimming with orders soon. An imperative part of ensuring we are able to fulfill our customer promise and place a smile on every client’s face is planning. That being said, it is crucial to receive inventory and orders on time. We understand hiccups can happen and it will always be WineDirect’s mission to get those packages promptly out the door, but delays can have a ripple effect that not only jeopardizes agreements with winery clients, but also the customer promise, which we take very seriously. If you’re a WineDirect client, you can lean on your dedicated Account Manager as a trusted resource to help you understand key shipping dates and cutoffs. It is more important than ever to give your customers a seamless, fast delivery experience this peak season and beyond.