Installation Inventory: Heavenly storage

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

Founded in 1935, in Bardstown, Kentucky, shortly after Prohibition ended, Heaven Hill Brands (Heaven Hill) is the largest family-owned and operated distilled spirits producer and marketer in the U.S.

Their brands have grown beyond the company’s traditional roots as a bourbon distiller to become the sixth largest overall distilled spirits producer and marketer in the U.S. with a portfolio of well-known, innovative and relevant products.

Over the past 80 years, Heaven Hill has expanded its export business to ship products to over 60 countries worldwide and is now the world’s second largest holder of bourbon whiskey with an inventory in excess of 1.3 million barrels.

The challenge

With significant growth in acquisitions, Heaven Hill was quickly running out of space for storing finished case goods on site and was contemplating storing its products in multiple off-site warehouses. In addition, the company historically operated with fully manual processes, which were becoming less and less efficient as the company grew. With these challenges on their mind, the company decided to look for a fully automated solution that would increase warehouse storage capacity and scale as the company expanded its bottling facility.

The solution

Heaven Hill was prompted to turn to an automated solution to better manage inventory. They chose Westfalia Technologies, Inc.’s high-density automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), which included an automated layer-picking system.

Throughout a six-month implementation period, the Westfalia and Heaven Hill engineering teams worked closely together to incorporate Westfalia’s AS/RS and Savanna.NET Warehouse Execution System (WES) into existing equipment and systems. This harmonization involved the teams to phase in different parts of the integration without disrupting workflows and processes of the fully functioning warehouse, and allowed Heaven Hill to utilize different pieces of Savanna.NET and the AS/RS in small capacity.


With the help of Westfalia, Heaven Hill installed four tandem storage and retrieval machines (S/RM) and one fully automated layer picker in the 91,000 square-foot warehouse – increasing storage capacity by 40 per cent. The Savanna.NET WES simplifies and controls the entire warehousing process, while reducing the complexity of using several different “function-specific” applications.

The high-density AS/RS maximizes storage capacity within Heaven Hill’s existing site with a rack structure that covers three aisles with more than 27,000 pallet rack positions, served by the four tandem-pallet S/RMs. The system features storage blocks of multiple storage lane depths, including two outside storage blocks that can hold six pallets deep and middle storage blocks that hold up to 10 pallets. This gives Heaven Hill the flexibility to configure the middle storage blocks with varying lane depths, based upon inventory levels of each SKU.

The layer picker moves 50 layers per hour and stores 1,910 SKUs. Each S/RM can induct or output 103 pallets of finished goods per hour. Heaven Hill has condensed operations into eight- to 10-hour cycles, resulting in the shipment of approximately 50,000 cases of products each day. By automating previously manual processes, Heaven Hill can ship products 400 per cent faster than before. Additionally, the company has been able to cut down dock times by 49 per cent.

“Our ability to significantly cut down our dock time and truck turnaround time is a big step in moving towards being the shipper of choice,” said Cindy Mouser, director of supply chain and bottling operations for Heaven Hill.

“At Heaven Hill we expect future growth for both our company and our brands and Westfalia’s Savanna.NET really gives us the systems and leverage to be able to accommodate that growth.”