February 2010 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Kathy Zepaltas: Doing Fine, Moving Wine

Tags: Education & Careers

Kathy Zepaltas photo

NAME: Kathy Zepaltas

TITLE: Director of logistics, since 2001

COMPANY: Jackson Family Wines, Santa Rosa, Calif.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Inventory control coordinator, Apperson Business Forms; accounting assistant, BIW Connector Systems; recruiting specialist, S.L. Drown Associates Professional Placements; operations manager, Regal Wine Company; director of distribution, Jackson Family Wines

EDUCATION: BA, business management, Sonoma State University of California, 1992

Kathy Zepaltas began her career in logistics one day in 1996 when her employer tossed her a legal pad. Zepaltas was a sales assistant at Regal Wine Company, a subsidiary of Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Jackson Family Wines. Regal distributed four Jackson Family brands within the state, but the winery's owners had decided to give Regal its entire portfolio. That move would boost Regal's shipments to restaurants and retailers from 3,500 cases a year to more than 100,000.

"I need you to figure out what our infrastructure should be," said Zepaltas's boss. He gave her one week to devise a plan.

"Every night I went home with my legal pad," she says. "I just started doing the math."

She crunched the numbers so well that Regal soon named Zepaltas operations director. In 2000, she joined the "mother ship," taking a job as manager of warehousing and transportation at Jackson Family Wines. Today, as director of logistics, she's responsible for distributing Kendall-Jackson and Jackson Family's other brands to wine distributors worldwide.

It has been a whirlwind decade. In 2002, Zepaltas closed a distribution center in Reno, Nev., and consolidated all of Jackson Family's logistics operations in one building in Santa Rosa. But the business soon outgrew that facility, and the company started leasing third-party feeder warehouses, trucking wine up to one hour away for storage, then back to the DC as needed.

It was not an ideal solution. "It led to additional transportation and warehouse handling costs," Zepaltas says. She started developing a plan to build a bigger facility.

Just as Zepaltas had to learn logistics from the ground up, she now had to learn to supervise a major building project. "It took 11 months and two weeks from the start of construction to opening the doors," she says.

In November 2009, Jackson Family Wines moved the wine from its 11 feeder facilities to the new 650,000-square-foot DC in American Canyon, Calif. In January, it brought over its remaining stock from Santa Rosa.

With that project complete, Zepaltas says she'll now have time to focus on big-picture concerns, such as customer service. One of her goals is to enable customers to place and track orders online. She also wants to persuade more customers to use the rail spur at the new DC.

"Currently, we build truckloads of wine, drive the shipments at least one hour away, unload them through a warehouse, and put them on a boxcar to move across the United States," Zepaltas says. Customers who take possession of their wine in American Canyon and load it into boxcars there can move the product more efficiently and reduce their carbon emissions.

Other opportunities are bound to arise now that Zepaltas no longer has to face the inevitable complications of shuttling product between facilities. "I will analyze our processes and see how we can improve them," she says.

 

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

I am happily married to my high school sweetheart. We have 12-year-old twins, two dogs, and two cats (I call it our ark). I enjoy wine, cooking, home decorating, gardening, the outdoors, downhill skiing, and travel. My husband and I are big Green Bay Packers fans, and we run full- and half-marathons every few years.

Ideal dinner companion?

While Winston Churchill would be on my list, I'd enjoy dining with my entire family—from my husband and children to my parents, eight siblings and their spouses, plus nieces and nephews.

What's in your briefcase?

Nothing. Everything is on or in my desk.

Business motto?

Quality and pride.

If you didn't work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?

I'd love to act or sing on the stage, which I've done at small local venues. I'd also like to be an interior designer.