When it comes to logistics and supply chain management, the two biggest challenges that are consistently brought up are optimization and risk management. Finding the balance between reducing costs, time and inventory to gain competitive advantage while still protecting business from inevitable supply chain disruptions is no easy feat. Add in multifaceted regulations, a fragile high-value product, and an international transport carrier environment constantly in flux, and you have the complex world of wine logistics.

We can’t talk about this topic without featuring the particular challenges for wine supply chains involving the US. Now the largest wine consuming country, US beat out France and Italy, with 779 million gallons in 2015 according to the Wine Institute. It’s easy to see why this is an attractive target market for both foreign and domestic wine producers.

To explore this topic further, we turned to JF Hillebrand, an international logistics provider specialized in beer, wines and spirits to provide industry insight on the key challenges and recommendations for the wine supply chain.

Getting the Most from each Shipment

Wine by nature is a heavy commodity, 1 kilo to 1 liter, and when you add in wine bottles, packaging and pallets in standard ocean equipment, you have two common scenarios. The available space in a twenty foot container will limit the load tonnage, and in a forty foot container the road weight allowances in the USA will limit the payload.

So how about shipping just the wine instead? Bulk shipping has permitted wine shippers around the world to do just that, shifting the bottles and packaging out of the shipping container and to the destination markets.

Innovation in flexitank technology provided shippers a new bulk shipment method, more cost-effective and flexible than existing ISO tanks, which require strict cleaning standards to be met along with unit repositioning to balance the import and export demand.

JF Hillebrand’s VinBulk system more than doubles the capacity of a single twenty foot ocean container, safely transporting up to 24,000 liters of bulk wine compared to 10,584 liters of bottled wine. It essentially transforms a twenty foot standard container into a bulk liquid transportation device or a bulk wine storage unit in the case of JF Hillebrand’s VinStore.

Reducing Temperature Risk to Product

To state it simply, wine is a temperature sensitive product. Exposure to daily thermal fluctuations, extreme heat, cold and humidity in transport affects wine in transit, impacting bottled wines and packing or labels the most. Given the factors of geography and seasonality in the supply chain, owners have had to determine for themselves what level of risk to take on shipping in dry containers or opting for the additional cost of operating refrigerated containers.

Taking the industry lead for temperature risk assessment on beer, wine and spirits, JF Hillebrand developed VinRoute, a predictive risk management tool. The internal database of shipping routes and historical temperature and humidity data allows shippers to make informed decisions on container equipment selection.

Continue Reading: What are the top 5 challenges in Wine Logistics?