PHOTOS BY // MICHAEL GLEASON PHOTOGRAPHY
John P. O’Sullivan Distributing (JPO), one of the largest beer distributors in Michigan, just expanded their warehouse with a new 20,000-sq. ft. addition, bringing their total warehouse to nearly 80,000 square feet. This new warehouse features more truck bays, a 5500-sq. ft. walk-in draft cooler, more efficient LED lights and new recycling space for cans and bottles. By reconfiguring the storage racks, they created 50% more storage space.
“We were bursting at the seams,” Joanie O’Sullivan-Butler, president and CEO, explains. “This expansion decision was made because we are at a point where we are growing and needed to reorganize and also to prepare for future growth opportunities.”
Joanie and her husband, Sean Butler, COO, chose to work with all local contractors and they were impressed with the professionalism and organization of B.G. White Construction, established in 1976 in Flint, who oversaw the project.
“This particular project was approached as a design-build project, which worked out great because we were able to look at all the different business needs, brainstorm ideas on paper, and then work together with the architect to come up with some great solutions,” Vice President and Project Manager Mike White explained.
With so many new products in the marketplace, including canned wines, alcohol-infused kombucha, hard seltzers and craft beer products, the current warehouse was not set up to store all those different SKUs. After working with Ned Bauhof, the principal and vice president of Precision Distribution Consulting (PDC), they could accommodate not only the larger brands but the smaller ones which need a smaller rack area. PDC, established in 2006, has designed over 700 beverage warehouse delivery projects in about 30 countries.
“We started working with Joanie and Sean in 2017 to figure out a way to re-purpose their warehouse space to maximize efficiency and storage,” Bauhof says. “As part of the process, we examined 12 months of customer ordering patterns to see the flow of their business and building. After the data analysis, we went through a dozen scenarios. We determined the best plan would be to re-purpose their drive-through to store the new pick-and-pack area and to add a canopy on the back of the building so trucks can back into the bays for easy loading.”
The beverage industry is evolving and changing with trends leading toward the new energy drinks, hard seltzers and non-alcoholic beverages. These new products are sold in smaller quantities compared to general beer sales, so as part of the new organizational process, PDC redefined an efficient pick path for employees to prepare orders to be loaded onto delivery trucks.
“Now we have the capacity to handle double the sales volume of our current level. But since we are growing so quickly, we are now able to strategically plan for what will happen in the future,” Sean Butler says.
NOW WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO HANDLE DOUBLE
THE SALES VOLUME OF OUR CURRENT LEVEL.
– SEAN BUTLER –
The expansion allows JPO to accommodate more brands and products, and will create 30 jobs for drivers, warehouse staff and office personnel. This will bring their team to about 120 employees.
JPO has been in the Flint community since 1976, and in the original 60,000- sq. ft. warehouse since 1980. Back then, they only had 12 brands and did approximately 400,000 cases of beer annually. Today, they have more than 51 suppliers and distribute about 2.5 million cases annually.
Their neighbor, Dan Crannie, president and owner of Signs By Crannie, fondly remembers moving in next to them in 2013 when Joanie’s parents John and Joan were still involved with the business.
“I’m very lucky to have them as neighbors,” Crannie says. “Every interaction I’ve had with them, including their parents, has been wonderful. I feel blessed to have met John and Joan, and they are so proud of Joanie and Sean for carrying on the tradition of good community stewardship as John and Joan did. As a bonus, their expansion is a wonderful investment in our community and more beer is always a good thing.”