Body swapping

May 1, 2008
Like All distributors, Atlanta, Georgia-based Republic National Distributing Company is faced with finding ways to reduce operating expenses while maintaining

Like All distributors, Atlanta, Georgia-based Republic National Distributing Company is faced with finding ways to reduce operating expenses while maintaining logistics productivity and good customer service. On top of that, this second largest distributor of premium wine and spirits in the United States has been increasing its distribution area in Virginia, and the expense of delivering product from multiple storage warehouses was considerable.

In investigating to reduce costs and improve operations, Republic National Distributing settled upon an innovative delivery system called Warehouse on Wheels. The system enabled it to consolidate and streamline its distribution operations and still achieve logistics efficiencies.

Developed by Demountable Concepts, the Warehouse on Wheels system allows multiple demountable bodies to be loaded at a central location and then shuttled on a tractor trailer or straight truck to regional operating points. Here, the bodies are removed, and route trucks pick up the corresponding body for their delivery route.

The truck bodies from the previous round of deliveries are loaded onto the tractor trailer or straight truck and returned to the central location for reloading.

At the core of the Warehouse on Wheels system is specially designed equipment systems, says Rustin Cassway, president and one of the founders of Demountable Concepts, Glassboro, New Jersey. These systems enable a semitrailer to haul up to four demountable truck bodies at one time, and a straight truck to transport two such bodies.

Equipment conversion

The equipment systems have an easy-to-operate electric/hydraulic power chassis lift system that raises and lowers the truck bodies. There is an assembly that locks down the bodies to hold them securely in place for transit.

The truck bodies are outfitted with retractable legs. Each truck body stands independently.

The body exchange for both the semitrailer and straight truck is basically the same, Cassway explains. To demount, the bodies are unlocked, then the lift is raised vertically enough for the legs to put in place, after which the vehicle pulls out from under the bodies.

To mount the bodies, he says, special long sills on the bottom of the truck body guide the chassis as it backs up with the lift raised. Once in position, the legs are returned to their storage location, and the chassis lift is lowered into place. The lock-down system that holds the bodies in place is engaged.

Interchanging of four bodies on a semitrailer takes less than an hour, says Cassway. It takes about 15 minutes to switch two bodies on a straight truck.

Demountable Concepts doesn't build complete truck bodies. Rather, it produces and sells the specialized components to make truck bodies interchangeable.

Van bodies can be customized with doors in the front and rear to allow loading of the bodies while staged on a semitrailer or straight truck, he says.

Centralized operation

“With the Warehouse on Wheels system, we were able to consolidate our three Virginia warehouse operations into a single centralized distribution center in Richmond while maintaining our high level of daily service to our customers in all Virginia markets,” says Republic National Distributing's vice president and director of distribution and logistics Stefan Kirshenbaum.

Shuttle (transfer) drivers make two trips each night to avoid traffic and to have the bodies ready for the delivery trucks to begin their routes early each morning. Four bodies are transported on each shuttle tractor trailer.

“Our route drivers can make more stops per day,” Kirshenbaum says, “as a result of less drive time to the first customer stop since they aren't starting out from a distant distribution center.”

Republic National Distributing uses the Warehouse on Wheels system for both refrigerated and dry van truck bodies. All bodies, manufactured by Supreme Corporation, are 12-feet long. The refrigerated bodies, used for wine deliveries, have a Thermo King CB Max or V-280 refrigeration unit.

“Since investing in Demountable Concept's equipment, we have successfully been able to grow our business at a greater rate than the overall market and dramatically improved our bottom-line using the single distribution center for the entire state,” say Kirshenbaum.

He notes that Republic National Distributing was the first in the beverage alcohol distribution marketplace to use the Warehouse on Wheels system.

Another benefit of the system, Cassway adds, is lowered fuel costs. “Shuttling several bodies together eliminates the need for separate trips by straight trucks.”

About the Author

David Kolman

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