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How to Manage a Brewery With Business Technology

how to manage a brewery

Technology can help streamline processes in every area of your business, which is critical if you want to scale (or even if you just want to make more money off of your current production volume by boosting profit margins). Plus, tech solutions can provide valuable insights that you just can’t easily obtain otherwise — from sales metrics to inventory forecasts and Cost of Goods Sold reports. When you have good data, you can efficiently make educated decisions. That’s how to manage a brewery.

Ekos recently released the 2022 edition of our popular report, Building a Tech Stack: An Analysis of Breweries & Cideries. In it, we investigate which software solutions craft beverage businesses are investing in and share real stories of how breweries and cideries have built their tech stacks. This blog will provide a high-level overview of our recommendations based on that data (but if you want all the details, you’ll want to download the report). 

The Tech Advantage

First off: Why even use software in the first place? Consider the advantages offered by technology over manual methods of record-keeping: Paper logs, whiteboards, and notebooks are prone to human error and easily lost or erased. Even with digital note-taking or spreadsheets, broken links and missing data are common problems, so it can be hard to connect the dots and get value out of the information you’re collecting.

Software facilitates open communication in real time, because it usually allows multiple team members to see the same data without physically standing in the same place. It can also automate operations to help your team function more efficiently. With the increased traceability and reduction in human error, you can make decisions proactively with the insight you gain from your efforts.

Technology Breweries Can’t Live Without

Word cloud showing open-ended responses to the question “What are the tools, technology and software that you cannot live without?” n = 442

In the survey we sent to breweries and cideries, we asked what technology they can’t live without when it comes to managing their businesses, and the answers we got reveal something many industry insiders already know: Software is vital for key processes like inventory and production management (the core functions of Ekos, which was a top response) and accounting, but more manual solutions like spreadsheets and email are still prevalent.

When we asked about business management software specifically, Ekos was the top vendor mentioned. But what’s a lot more interesting about Ekos being so pervasive in this survey is the fact that business management software was a top response in the first place. When you contrast this data with our winery research, it’s easy to see that not all segments of the alcohol industry use technology the same way. Wineries are much more likely to use spreadsheets and manual methods to manage their production and inventory processes, with more than 50% of those in our survey saying as much.

And by the way, if you think your business is too small for business management software, consider where your business is headed. Many owners of small breweries wonder if using a system like Ekos is worth it at their size. There’s no perfect formula for when you should transition from spreadsheets to software, and it all depends on your vision for the future. A small neighborhood brewpub with no plans for distribution might not need dedicated software now or ever. But any business owner with their mind set on growth and longevity is better off getting the right processes in place sooner rather than later.

Key Brewery Software Solutions

Most of the software solutions breweries reported using fall into one of the categories below. We’ve summarized some of the insights, but you can get the complete breakdown of popular vendors in the report.

  • QA/QC software: Most survey respondents said they use their business management software to track quality data. In our view, this is a best practice because you can keep production and inventory records in one place.
  • POS and ecommerce software: For anyone selling directly to consumers, these systems are non-negotiable. Our biggest takeaway? Make sure the data from your POS can easily flow into your inventory management system — more on that later.
  • CRM software: Our research found that most breweries are not using dedicated CRM software, but a large portion are using their brewery management software to track customer information and sales activities.
  • Sales orders and invoice management: The vast majority of breweries told us that they received wholesale order requests via texts, emails, and phone calls. A small portion were ahead of the curve, using a digital order portal to manage sales orders in one place.
  • Accounting software: Unsurprisingly, QuickBooks is still the industry standard when it comes to accounting software. However, we continue to be surprised that nearly 20% of businesses we surveyed use QuickBooks Desktop rather than the cloud-based QuickBooks Online.
  • Analytics and business intelligence software: Few breweries are using dedicated analytics or BI software, but many say they use spreadsheets for this purpose. As breweries scale, the desire (and need) for this type of tool is likely to grow.

See the top software companies for each of these categories »

Don’t Forget This Important Software Feature

When you’re looking for a new piece of software to add to your brewery tech stack, you probably have a long list of features you’re hoping for. In a POS, maybe you’re looking for contactless ordering, tip pooling capabilities, and robust reporting. But have you considered integrations?

A software integration connects two pieces of technology together in a way that allows a seamless flow of information from one to the other. The exact way this connection functions depends on many factors, primarily the function of each software component and the way the integration was built. In an ideal universe, your brewery management software (that manages your inventory and production information) would serve as the central hub of your tech stack. Then, you can choose additional pieces of software (POS, ecommerce, accounting, etc.) that integrate with it.

Why do we suggest this approach? The short answer is that it’s less of a headache for you in the long run. Integrations free up time you or your employees would otherwise spend entering data (daily sales, for instance) in multiple places. And because you only have to enter it in one place, discrepancies between systems are less likely. Integrations also help you get the information you need faster, which can help you make quick financial decisions when they matter most.

All of this is to say: When you’re building your tech stack or adding to it, make sure you consider how each piece will fit with the others to avoid creating more work for your team. Don’t miss the forest for the trees.

What Software Are Breweries & Cideries Using?

If this overview of brewery software and technology left you wanting more information, we’ve got you covered. Our 2022 edition of Building a Tech Stack: An Analysis of Breweries & Cideries is full of data gathered from a survey of 450 breweries and cideries as well as in-depth interviews with breweries of different sizes. Get inspired to level up your brewery’s technology usage — or just memorize some random stats to share with your friends. Up to you.

Download the white paper for free to get the results of our exclusive analysis as well as more tips and best practices like those shared in this blog.

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Written by Becca