Del Papa Taps Into the IoT to Improve Beer Distribution Center

A new DC, built with IoT technology from the ground up, is helping Del Papa Distributing Co. to boost productivity while cutting energy use.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor

The new building's energy usage is far better managed and regulated than it was at the Galveston warehouse, and not just because it is far better insulated. Wired and wireless sensors throughout the 100,000-square-foot facility send data up to the HVAC controls. If temperatures exceed a set threshold—due to unusually warm or cool temperatures outside, or because a busy day means the dock doors are opened and closed frequently—the HVAC system, made up of Trane heating and cooling equipment and Vaisala sensors, makes adjustments, in concert with very large ceiling fans. These fans are made by Big Ass Fans and have integrated, IP-addressable temperature sensors, in order to ensure that temperatures remain within the storage settings Del Papa has ensured its suppliers.

"The warehouse is just a big cooler, with machines and people driving around in it," Holtsclaw says. "But the old facility was only 60,000 square feet and needed four or five chillers running 24-7 because of inefficiencies." Despite being 40,000 square feet larger, the new building operates with only two chillers. The fans are also a big reason the new warehouse requires fewer chillers, he notes. Additionally, sensors on the dock doors will issues alerts to building managers if they are left open for excessive periods of time, which can allow heat into the building.

Since the Texas City facility's opening, Del Papa has begun upgrading some of the systems at its two other Texas distribution centers, located in Beaumont and Victoria. By linking those systems into Cisco control platform, Holtsclaw and his team can troubleshoot any issues that may arise without having to travel to the other facilities.

"Any time, anywhere, someone—assuming they have permissions to log into the VPN—can sit in front of a computer and get onto the network," Holtsclaw explains, "and see what they need to see and control what they need to control."

Next up for Del Papa is a solution that will extend the IoT platform to the company's trucking fleet, thereby allowing the firm to remotely monitor the locations and environmental conditions of its precious cargo.

The work of bringing the 100-year-old company into the Internet of Things has been rewarding, Zones' Lurie says, and not just because it has helped the company to light its environmental footprint and boost productivity. Sometimes, he says, Zones' employees get to crack open a few beers on the house.

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