Case Study: Automated Beverage Warehouse

Here’s a project typical of what PL Programs works with and is well-positioned to help deliver.

The Need

A leading beverage company was planning on starting its first North American distribution site, in their words conducting “open heart surgery” on the supply chain. Previous distribution through the US was done through third-party logistics providers. As a result, the company did not have a distribution operations team or a team experienced in this type of project.

The customer had authorized the project and was on a timeline to match startup of the distribution center with the production facility. Some preliminary systems consultants and architect had been engaged but design was still very early. Ground was not yet broken and COVID-19 was ramping up.

The Operational sponsor of the project was also tasked with overseeing multiple other operational initiatives within the company and needed support in developing the delivery model. The team had not defined a clear overall project management structure, but one was needed if the project was going to succeed.

The company engaged PL Programs to manage the overall project.

Approach & Journey

The facility was to be a greenfield automated site over 770k sf in size.

PL Programs organized the work among a wide group of stakeholders, including Construction teams, Operations teams, Human resources, IT Infrastructure, IT Systems, and Headquarters teams. PL Programs partnered with the functional leads to define the project structure, set a communication plan among the project team up to Executive Steering level, articulate detailed plans, and put risk and change management process in place.

During the project, PL Programs added value in design and planning with operational insights from experience leading distribution sites.

PL Programs led a procurement cycle for a major automation system, including development of tender documentation, managing communications with vendors, and developing business case and decision presentations for customer executives.

PL Programs also led structuring the operational testing model and brought in specialized resourcing to support integrated testing.

Overall and through the implementation, PL Programs served as the project team integrator and controls management.


PL Programs and the project team overcame some critical challenges:

  1. Lead times, costs, development, and construction impact of Covid. Durations and costs became very uncertain during COVID 2020-2021. This required high levels of risk management activities. Including close management and planning to ensure all critical item schedules were reviewed and planned for, and contracting & cost management closely monitored to mitigate raw materials pricing swings.
  2. Major change to operational concept of including AGV automation. This happened as construction details were being finalized and ground already broken. This meant on-the-fly revision of entire design, procurement plan, organizational design, cost plan, and design requirements to the building.


The site went live on the planned schedule and on budget, even through COVID. Customer stakeholders were aligned to the startup and ramp planning.

The operations team was hired and trained. Systems functionality was in place and enabled receipt and shipments as planned. The facility could handle the planned volumes and activities.

Overall, the project was judged as a success by the customer.

It enabled a radical change in their North American distribution strategy with minimal disruption and no major risks materialized.

Based on the value provided, the client engaged PL Programs to manage its next site implementation.

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