How to Streamline Beer Distribution with Cutting-Edge Software

As craft beer has been rising in popularity in our culture, the craft brewery industry has become increasingly competitive. With shrinking margins, efficiency and accuracy in the distribution process have become a core part of running a successful business and optimizing operations through brewery software.

In fact, breweries and distributors across the board are turning to innovative software solutions to streamline their operations, minimize errors, and maximize profitability. Leveraging cutting-edge technology can allow businesses within this competitive industry to gain an edge while delivering exceptional service to their customers.

However, success isn’t automatic. As cutting-edge software has moved from a luxury to a necessity, businesses looking to thrive in the competitive craft beer landscape have to be intentional about how they implement it. Learn about the challenges faced in beer distribution today, how the right software solution can overcome them, and the impact that a brewery-specific solution can make in optimizing your business.

Common Challenges of Today’s Beer Distribution Landscape

Beer distribution has been increasing in complexity for a while, not least since the craft brewing trend began to kick off. Businesses looking to survive in this environment must be aware of the challenges they (along with their competitors) will face. Some of the most common obstacles and complexities in this landscape include:

  • Increasing numbers of SKUs that require separate recordkeeping and distribution forecasting
  • Growing numbers of distribution channels, including (but not limited to) online sales, brewpubs, and local bars or restaurants
  • Complex regulations that require both beer producers and distributors to follow specific procedures to remain in compliance
  • Data visibility for producers and distributors to ensure full transparency, allowing both sides (or both sides of the same business) to optimize their operations
  • Accuracy of information in the field, such as the age and freshness of different kegs currently in circulation with distinct end users
  • Lack of integration between producers and distributors’ data or their respective software systems, requiring manual handovers and introducing significant room for error

Against that backdrop, distribution efforts have to be more strategic and comprehensive than ever. From effective brewery inventory management to creating a single source of truth for data at all levels of the value chain, the right software can go a long way toward overcoming these challenges.

5 Advantages of Technology That Help Overcome Common Distribution Pain Points

Technology has become an increasingly important part of supply chain processes across the field, and the brewery industry is no different. As a recent case study by Supply Chain Dive points out, automation is coming to the industry quickly and with potentially massive advantages: 

“And because of automated systems in place, the distributor saw an optimal utilization of the available space within the warehouse.”

A more nuanced analysis shows that the right software can help overcome distribution channels not just through automation but through a wide range of other features that can bring industry-leading advantages to the business.

Advantage 1. Brewery Software Can Automate Core Business Processes

Automation, of course, is the most frequently cited benefit of software platforms in this arena. And indeed, it can help distributors succeed in a number of ways, including:

  • Automated ordering systems reduce manual labor as distributors and producers can easily place the orders they need when certain inventory thresholds are reached.
  • Automated reporting features that provide real-time insights into the business and movement of products, uncovering both inefficiencies and improvement opportunities in the process.
  • Automated data flows that connect the distribution software with other pieces of the technology stack, creating a comprehensive single source of truth for all variables related to distribution.
  • Automated workflows that can streamline each part of the production and distribution processes, including task management, build accountability and organization.

This automation impacts almost every part of the craft brewery business. Industry-specific software can improve workflows and reduce manual efforts across the board, ultimately saving significant time and resources.

Advantage 2. More Comprehensive Integration Leads to More Streamlined Efforts

We’ve already mentioned integration as part of the automation process, but it’s worth highlighting just how significant its impact can be even without that automation in place. Building natural integrations with all systems and stakeholders gets everyone on the same page, helping to create a better system where producers and distributors can work together toward their ultimate goal of customer satisfaction.

Integrations can take shape in multiple ways. For example, sales data can naturally flow into reporting and inventory tools, allowing for better sales forecasting that minimizes waste and more reliably satisfies demand. Meanwhile, more integrated financial information from different parts of the business reduces the potential for errors as producers and distributors alike seek to balance and optimize their budgets.

Advantage 3. Data-Driven Insights Can Improve Processes on Both Ends

Thanks in part to these integrations, brewery distribution software can also help drive more data-focused decision-making. When owners and managers know that they can rely on the data in a given system and that this data is comprehensive, they can more easily use it to optimize their business on both a strategic and tactical level.

On the tactical level, that might mean leveraging production data to better understand distribution needs at a given point in time. Strategically, it might mean taking a closer look at the distribution strategy to local restaurants to ensure that kegs are always fresh and replaced in time. Data collected across the business turns from a nuisance into a crucial strategic advantage specifically designed to improve your business.

Advantage 4. Batch Tracking Enhances Internal and External Quality Control

When discussing optimized brewery management, from inventory to production, one must at least consider the impact of quality control. A low-quality, inconsistent batch of beer can harm the producer as much as the distributor, reducing credibility and leading to the potential of lost sales. On the other hand, both sides will thrive if consumers and business customers can always expect high-quality brews.

This is where the right technology can make a massive impact. It begins with batch tracking, allowing all stakeholders to understand exactly when a batch was brewed and what its circumstances were. That, in turn, helps to reconcile potential issues but can also lead to more proactive keg replacement when the time is right.

Of course, quality control goes beyond batch tracking. In an efficient brewery, it’s a core part of all beer production and distribution efforts. While a software platform is certainly no magic solution on its own for producing that quality brew, it can help track any and all steps you take in the QA process to ensure they’re never missed. In addition, you can discover trends or inefficiencies that might need adjustments in the future.

Advantage 5. Centralized Order Management for Streamlined Process Flows

Finally, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of one of the most basic processes of the production and distribution interaction: order management. Being able to easily reorder products is a major aspect of the distribution channel, enabling everyone involved to know what’s coming and remain on the same page.

Manually managing these processes can be challenging at best. Technology, on the other hand, can play a significant role in ensuring that the process is smooth and streamlined, minimizing friction and optimizing productivity in the process.

With the right software system, you can place individual orders and easily view order history and trends with each supplier. You can keep supplier information organized in a single spot, communicate with each supplier, and set desired delivery dates. As a result, suppliers and distributors can more easily align with each other’s needs and work together to better satisfy their customers. 

The Impact of Brewery Distribution Software on Your Business Success 

Thanks to its ability to overcome the pain points most commonly faced in the beer distribution arena, brewery software can make a significant difference for businesses on both sides of the equation. Companies are able to better optimize their operations, streamline processes, reduce costs, and deliver unparalleled service to their customers.

Moreover, as the regulatory and data environment becomes more complex, navigating the nuances of the process through technology has become increasingly essential. Manually tracking purchases and product movements introduces significant potential for error, leading to issues that not only decrease profit margins but also increase the risk of dissatisfaction. A centralized software system can be leveraged as the informational and process-focused hub that ensures such problems won’t arise.Of course, the ultimate solution is adopting the right brewery software to make that happen. The ideal platform should be optimized as much for distribution as it is for production while accounting for the nuances of the brewery industry. An industry-specific solution allows breweries to schedule, forecast, produce, plan, and distribute their high-quality craft beers, leading to consistent customer satisfaction and loyalty. Book a demo with Ekos to learn how our platform can help distributors optimize their business operations and drive them to long-term success.

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Written by Gab Cisneros