A Contextual Teaching and Learning Essay

by Phyllis Brannon

for EMAT 6690


Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Distribution Center, Athens, GA


Ever wonder about the process that goes into getting those refreshing cokes to your local supermarket or convenience store? Although the Coca-Cola Bottling Company is located in Atlanta, there are several distribution centers around the state. One is located in Athens, Georgia and services Jackson, Oglethorpe, Clarke, Oconee, Green, Morgan, Barrow and Madison Counties. This center services retail outlets such as supermarkets, convenience stores, and supercenters. It also services vending areas such as those located throughout the University of Georgia campus.

Let's take a look at this process and what mathematics is involved is getting your favorite drink to one of these outlets.

Each day the center manager at the Athens distribution center orders thousands of drinks from the Atlanta Bottling Company, and each night these drinks are delivered to the warehouse.


How does the center manager know the amount to order? This is based on information that the account managers (salespersons) give him. Several salespersons are employed by the distribution center to sell the product to the various retail outlets. Any mathematics involved in this? Sure! As you can see from the above pictures, the products come packaged in layers. There are 8 cases to each layer and 13 layers for each full pallet. If a client wants 90 cases, the package would have to be broken before being loaded on the delivery truck. How many cases should the account manager sell to his client so that the packages do not have to be broken? What if the client wants 200 cases?

The client also has what is known as a 'build sheet' which lists the preferred amount of product to be stocked in the store. When the account manager makes a sales call, he/she can simply look at this 'build sheet' and figure how many and the types of product he needs to order for his client.

Once the amount of produce a retailer needs is determined and this big red truck delivers the cokes, how does the retailer decide what to charge?

Each account manager does what is termed as "trade math" by the industry and can figure gross profit, profit margin, markup, turnover, % week supply, days on hand, adjusting to 100%, retail, cost, and percent change for the client. For example, gross profit would be the difference between the wholesale price and the selling price. If a 12-pack costs the retailer 2.50$ and it is sold for $2.99, then it is easy to figure that the gross profit is $.49. But what about the profit margin? Click on one of the terms to find the definition then try to figure all some of the items listed based on a cost of $2.50, a selling price of $2.99, weekly sales of 300 cases, and an inventory of 100 cases. If a retailer wants to make a 30% profit, how much would a 12-pack need to sell for?


Each day when the account managers return to the distribution center, they must check up and make sure all figures balance for the day. They also look at their goals and decide what they need to do meet their quotas. They need to figure increase and decrease in sales, and what percentage of the total volume they are bringing into the center.

The warehouse workers also do mathematics when loading trucks. Printouts such as the one shown below tell the loader how many cases are needed. Remember, the product can be can, 2-liter, 20-oz., 16-oz., etc. These workers have to figure how much product can be put on a pallet and how much weight can be put on a truck. The Department of Transportation has specific guidelines related to weightload for these trucks, and the trucks are not all the same size.

When drivers leave the warehouse, they are charged out with the merchandise they have. For example, if a driver leaves with 500 cases, he must return with cash, check or charges that total the price of $500 cases.


The account managers who do the actual selling are responsible to a supervisor at the distribution center. These supervisors have volume goals each month. They also need to know their gross profit volume on a daily and weekly basis. They need to know the percentage that their total sales are up or down. Their job depends on it!!!

Not only does the company sell to retail outlets, they also sell fountain drinks using these vending trucks. And the pricing for his unpackaged product is computed completely differently!

So if you ever feel the urge to ask your teacher, "When will I ever use this math?", think about the coke you're drinking and know that a lot of mathematics occurred in getting that product to you!