7 Ways Software Can Strengthen Your Brewery’s Inventory Management Process

And how to choose the best inventory tracking software

7 Benefits of Inventory Management

Managing your brewery efficiently is more important now than ever before. It’s vital to track metrics accurately so that you have the information you need to make decisions — no matter what unexpected challenges arise.

It all starts with inventory tracking, from raw ingredients all the way through the income statement. To do this effectively, record all movements related to inventory, production, sales, equipment maintenance, and packaging. If you have the right processes in place to track those elements, you’ll get good data that can help you plan the future of your business.

Many breweries start out tracking inventory in spreadsheets or, worse, on handwritten logs that live on clipboards hung around the brewery. These methods might work fine when production is minimal and your staff is small (like, just you and a buddy). But inventory management via paper and spreadsheets simply does not scale as your business grows. Let’s dive into this a little deeper.

Beer Inventory Tracking Software vs. Spreadsheets

Let’s start with the obvious reasons that manual methods of inventory tracking aren’t ideal. Paper records can be lost or damaged. Even if you do find them, is pinpointing where someone last left the clipboard really a good use of your time? Information on whiteboards can easily be erased. And what if you have a question about a number or note someone wrote? Hopefully you can identify who wrote it and get more information, but you might have to ask around the brewery for a while to find out.

Besides being time-consuming, manual inventory tracking won’t give you and your team the insights you need over time. The white board won’t forecast your next raw material order for you. And your paper inventory logs won’t tell your traveling sales rep what beers are in stock when they’re on the road. For those details, a more accessible and reliable system of record is required.

Many craft breweries first experiencing this problem seek out spreadsheets. Maybe you’re already using them. Even the best spreadsheets rely on complicated formulas that can easily break, and sharing them among team members isn’t always an easy process. Sure, you can share a Google Sheet, but how do you communicate tasks or work orders associated with them? Plus, it’s difficult to forecast your future needs, and reconciliation with your accounting software at the end of each month can be a nightmare.

If you’re reading this, these problems are likely familiar to you. Let’s move on to how software can help you manage your brewery’s inventory without the headaches.

7 Benefits of Brewery Inventory Software

So, what can inventory management software do for your brewery that paper and spreadsheets can’t?

1. Forecast inventory needs.

Know what ingredients and packaging materials to order and when, so you never run out of your most-used hops, grains, bottles, or cans. And if your point-of-sale system integrates with your inventory system, you can even sync up inventory levels for sales of merchandise and other taproom items. Imagine — you won’t even have to dig around in the taproom storage closet to know how many shirts you have on hand.

2. Track inventory costs.

Has the cost of working with a certain supplier gone up astronomically over time? Are you spending too much money on certain items? Can you save on packaging costs by increasing the order quantity of less expensive materials and moving away from the more expensive ones? You can easily answer these questions when you accurately track your inventory and associated costs.

3. Manage inventory for batches in production.

Keep an eye on batches from near or far. With beer recipes loaded into the software, you can compare the inventory needed for upcoming batches to what’s on hand, view current costs and quantities packaged, and more. Software makes viewing batches easier with a visual, drag-and-drop view of your production floor — versus just a long list of batch names and numbers. (To be clear, you can see the long list with software, too. If that’s what you’re into.)

4. Monitor product performance.

When you have an accurate, real-time record of what finished goods are in stock, you can get valuable information about product performance. Understand which beers and packaging types sell most frequently and at the highest margin. Then you can plan your production schedule accordingly. Plus, you can more easily forecast inventory needs, because you’ll know what beers to produce to hit your brewery’s revenue and margin goals.

5. Know your cost of goods sold.

You can’t get an accurate COGS number without tracking the cost of all related inventory, production, and packaging items. The accuracy of this number (and other important metrics, like packaged volume cost) is paramount. Put simply, it helps you price your products appropriately to make a profit.

6. Use financial data to make decisions.

Whoever does your bookkeeping will thank you. (Maybe it’s you — you can thank yourself!) When you record all costs associated with production, you can use cost accounting to get an accurate picture of your finances and make informed decisions. Easily populate reports about key metrics like average batch cost or revenue by item class to plan future purchases and sales allocations. From an operations perspective, you can use reports related to inventory transactions to spot-check inventory activity and identify any potential issues. 

7. Make TTB reporting easier.

Tracking your key business data in a centralized system pays off come tax time. With brewery inventory software, filling out reports for the TTB becomes a much faster process. In fact, software will automatically fill in parts of the Brewer’s Report of Operations for you. Great Raft Brewing estimates they save up to 40 hours per month on compliance reporting as a team by using software rather than spreadsheets.

Bonus Benefit: Automatic Inventory Updates for Sales to Distributors, Restaurants & Retailers

With a digital order portal for your wholesale customers built into the software, you can have inventory automatically depleted when you approve an order. No more reconciling your calls, texts, and emails from customers with what’s in your paper inventory log or brewery inventory spreadsheet.

How to Choose the Right Brewery Inventory Software

Inventory management is just one aspect of great brewery management software, so make sure you do your research. You’ll want to set up in-depth demos with any vendors you’re considering, and come prepared with a list of your must-have features.

The right software will help you keep track of inventory, plan and record production activities, manage sales orders and invoices, and sync with popular accounting and POS systems to make end-of-month reporting seamless. A cloud-based system allows you and your team to manage your business from wherever you are, so you can assign new tasks, keep an eye on activities, or check in on sales from anywhere in real time.

Aside from asking about the features you need, here are some vital questions to ask brewery software companies:

  1. What’s your company mission?
    Start off with this big-picture question that will give you an overview of the partner you’re considering. What is the company goal and how are they working to achieve it? If the answer isn’t about helping you better manage and grow your business, you may want to look elsewhere.  
  1. Does your software integrate with other systems, like POS and accounting software?
    Software integrations with programs you already use — or plan to use in the future — will reduce data entry in multiple systems, saving you valuable time and ensuring accuracy of information.
  2. Is my team able to use your inventory software anywhere, on any device?
    Any software solution you choose should be cloud-based and accessible from any device, no matter where you are. Ask about how the software functions on mobile devices and other features that enable you to make updates and check information while on the go. This is a great opportunity to check whether you pay per user or get unlimited users with your subscription.
  3. How often do you make updates to your inventory software?
    It’s great to have a solution that meets your needs right now, but as you grow and change, you want your inventory management system to grow with you. Make sure that you choose a partner that makes regular updates, has a product roadmap, and employs an experienced engineering team that can work on defects and build new features.
  4. What is your customer support like?
    When you have questions about how to use the software, you want to be easily connected to a knowledgeable support team with a high customer satisfaction rating. In addition to support specialists, ask about the onboarding process, available training materials, and self-help support resources (like a customer knowledge base with how-to articles).
  5. Does your company have the resources to support me long-term?
    If you’re going to commit time, money, and energy to inventory management software, you want to feel confident that your provider can be a long-term partner. The company should have the resources — financially and otherwise — to continue investing in new features, improving the customer experience, and helping your business thrive year after year.

Your Search for Brewery Inventory Software Ends Here

“I was going to have to hire a full-time accountant just to deal with inventory. When Ekos came along, it allowed me to focus on the big picture of growing the brewery instead of looking at brew sheets.”

– Mark Huizink, Founder, 2 Crows Brewing

Ekos is the industry leader in brewery management software, period. We work hard to deliver outstanding value to our customers — so much value that they can’t believe they ever survived without us. For long-term success, your business needs the right partners. At Ekos, we’re committed to helping you build a brand that lasts with the best business management tools.

Ready to dive deeper? Take a self-guided tour of our product or reach out to our team for a personalized 20-minute demo today.

“I don’t know that I could do my job without Ekos. I’m in it every day. Having purchase orders, inventory, sales, and accounting flowing through one system makes Ekos like the middle hub in a big wheel — keeping everything together — as our business grows.”

– Jaclyn Turner, sales analyst, Monday Night Brewing
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Written by Becca