Transporting wine – that’s how flexible logistics providers have to be

Autumn is wine time: The harvest started, grapes are being pressed and filled into the fermentation tanks. Especially in South West Germany, wine festivals are being held to mark the beginning of the season, while private customers are busy inspecting their cellars. Sure enough, the end of the year is near. Specialist logisticians take care of replenishing the shops with bottles, which they reliably deliver without too much clashing. DB Schenker has been a logistician of wine for many decades. “Today, we are one of the leading logistics service providers in the beverage sector,” says Oliver Vollhardt, Head of Production at the office of Schenker Deutschland AG in Bingen.

Michael Daute, Schenker Deutschland Office in Bingen

„Having the right kind of market contacts still matters. And we’ve had them for many years.”

At the Waldlaubersheim location, there is a large logistics center only for wine, from where DB Schenker supplies its customers all over the world. Also in Saarland and in Koblenz wine logisticians work for DB Schenker. Customers include large trading companies as well as wine merchants or wineries. On their behalf, each week many trucks head off for the vineyards in Italy, France and Spain. Three employees arrange for the best time of loading at every location. Wines from other great wine producing countries are delivered over the network as well. “For imports from Portugal, Slovenia and Austria, we are relying on the employees at the corresponding DB Schenker offices,” says Michael Daute, who has been responsible for import, wine logistics and customs in Bingen for nearly ten years. “In 2016, we imported about 12,000 wine transports, amounting to 30 million bottles.”

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More market players

At the same time, the logistics companies must respond to a constantly changing market. Although the market is not shrinking: in the year 2016, each German drank about 20.6 liters – roughly the same as in the previous year – according to the German wine institute. However, the number of market players has changed since then. “Many supermarkets have their own sommeliers. The quantities handled by discounters have increased significantly, but there are fewer orders from our wine merchants,” explains Brigitte Wagner, Head of Wine Logistics at the Saarland office. The company specializes in national wine transports and imports of wine, spirits and non-refrigerated food products from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal as well as Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and England. Last year alone, the Saarlanders imported about 24 million bottles.
Consequently, Wagner and their five-member team had to expand their services to their customers. “Many of our customers order small quantities, which need to be delivered in a shorter period of time, in order to save the cost of storage.” DB Schenker, for example, adapted the express pick-ups accordingly.

Buffer by planning

Another development, in turn, makes the logistics easier for the logistics companies: the market is no longer dependent on the season, as it was a few years ago. Christmas and Easter are, of course, still highlights, just as on New Year’s Eve, champagne and sparkling wine must be available at all shops. However, for the rest of the year, imports remain relatively similar. But because DB Schenker is carefully planning within the limits of a tightly woven network, there is always sufficient buffer to respond flexibly to any such demand peak.

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In addition, DB Schenker has a further advantage. “Even though Wein is now sold and consumed on an industrial scale throughout all of Europe, having the right kind of market contacts still matters,” says Michael Daute. “And we’ve had them for many years.”