Monarch Beverage: Toast of the Town
If you enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine, consider lifting a cup to Monarch Beverage Company. Why? Because there’s a good chance that the Lawrence alcoholic beverage distributor delivered the suds or the grape to your favorite grocery store, bar or restaurant. And, if the business grows as expected, Monarch – already Indiana’s largest such distributor – intends to expand its footprint, bringing more jobs to Lawrence. “We are always looking for new opportunities,” said Phillip Terry, CEO. “That’s why we have extra space in the rear of our 80-acre property.”
Located on Pendleton Pike near East 52nd Street, Monarch’s impressive 500,000 sq. ft. facility sits on what once was home to a drive-in movie theater. For years the overgrown, weed-choked site sat mostly empty, hosting only the occasional flea market. Now, an average of 65,000 cases of beer and wine are processed here every day thanks in part to Monarch’s sophisticated conveyor and inventory sorting system. As impressive as the building’s exterior is, what goes on behind the walls is a remarkable study in logistics efficiency. “Once you get inside the box, there’s a whole lot going on,” said Todd Lebo, Monarch project manager.
Monarch runs three shifts employing about 650 workers. “These are good jobs – all of them full time with full benefits,” noted Terry. In a staging area the size of several football fields, beer and wine arrives at Monarch’s shipping docks. Pallets of product are off-loaded from delivery trucks and segregated for short-term storage. “We store about a million-and-a-half cases in the warehouse, with all product remaining on the floor no longer than 14 days,” said Lebo.
Forklift drivers shuttle the pallets to industrial robot pods where giant mechanical arms lift, place, sort and then nudge case after case of beer and wine onto the serpentine conveyor system that moves product through the facility. The robots custom-sort retail customer orders, meaning that delivery trucks are loaded with exactly the product needed for each route. Beer trucks then criss-cross two-thirds of the state delivering beverage orders. “Our automation system ensures that we are sending out accurate, damage free orders,” said Lebo.
In 2008, Monarch had outgrown its facility near Indianapolis International Airport, triggering the search for a suitable relocation site that would allow for much needed expansion. Lawrence was not on the original list of communities under consideration. “We thought this would be a courtesy call – that there’s no way it was going to work for us. We were pleasantly surprised,” said Terry. Several site visits and a package of tax breaks later, Monarch chose Lawrence as its new home. “This had everything we needed. A great location, a great community – we couldn’t be happier,” said Terry.
Monarch takes seriously its connection to the community by sponsoring Lawrence’s annual 4th of July Festival, and with a substantial financial gift to the Benjamin Harrison YMCA’s outdoor pool project. “Lawrence has a lot going for it and we want to help build this into a distinct, vibrant, healthy community,” said Terry. Who wouldn’t drink to that?