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The Importance of Keg Tracking & How to Do It

lost kegs

From troubles with securing cans to intense shipping delays, supply chain challenges have been the root of many frustrations in the craft world in recent years. 

Problems getting kegs to your supplier or your brewery could be lurking on the horizon as the truck driver shortage endures and supply chain problems continue to riddle distribution plans. But, with a little extra preparation, there are tools out there to help you control the things you can and navigate the things you can’t.

The Impact of Lost Kegs

Keg tracking tools can save you big bucks. According to the Brewers Association, keg loss costs breweries between $0.46 and $1.37 per barrel of beer produced. That means that in 2020, U.S.-based breweries lost between $10 million and $31 million just on kegs. That is a pretty big chunk of change to take on, and we know that every little bit counts.

Aside from the zeros in your bank account, keg tracking can save you mental anguish over where a keg disappeared to and whether your customers have kegs already or you’re just losing it (it’s OK, we get it). Based in North Carolina, Blowing Rock Brewing finds that its keg tracking system improves communication with distribution partners and allows for a clear timeline of where each keg is at any given time. “It makes requesting kegs easier too because we’re not going to have as many question marks,” Brewing Manager Rocky Justice said. 

What Should You Track?

To know what you need to track, consider concerns you and your team frequently have about your fleet of kegs. Some of these questions might include:

  • How many kegs do we have (total)?
  • Where are those kegs? Are they in the warehouse, at a customer, or in the taproom? Are they empty or filled?
  • Do we have any empty kegs available for packaging? If we’re running low, when will we need to order more (or get back empty kegs from customers)?
  • How long have kegs been sitting at a customer location, with freshness of the product declining every day?
  • If we have to recall a specific lot or batch number, how will we know which kegs contain that batch?

If you can’t answer all these questions with certainty, your keg tracking processes have room for improvement.

What’s Next?

After answering questions and concerns related to your keg fleet, you can find a solution that works for your team. Many teams’ first inclination is to create a spreadsheet. Others go right for software. Whatever your jam, own it. A spreadsheet might be sufficient for a small brewer who wants to get the gist of what to look out for: serial numbers, batches, locations, etc. For others who are growing rapidly or just have a large volume of kegs to keep track of, a full keg-tracking system might be better suited to their needs.

We recommend using software to accomplish your goals, as spreadsheets tend to get clunky and create dysfunction for many brewers. Keeping a spreadsheet up to date most often turns into a game of “whodunnit?” with a rolling rotation of people working on inventory and tracking kegs. With a software system, your kegs can be tracked as they go and updated with real-time information every day.

Finding the Right Fit

Whether you choose a software system or spreadsheet template, there are a few things you should consider before committing. If you’re looking for a spreadsheet template, remember to seek out (or create) a sheet that includes the following:

  • Keg description
  • Number in inventory
  • Location
  • Price per keg
  • Employee responsible for each keg
  • Customer status
  • Notes

If you’re looking for a software system, here’s what we recommend you look out for:

  • An inventory management system that allows you to keep track of finished goods and packaging materials inventory and forecast when you need more of the latter
  • A customer information portal tied to inventory so your sales and inventory information is all in the same place
  • The option to add unlimited users to your account so anyone who needs access to the software has it

Implementation

After you’ve decided which system to root your kegs in, you can get kicking. In either scenario, getting your kegs registered and organized is going to take some time and patience from your team. There are a lot of important details to keep track of. But, once you’ve implemented a system, it will all be worth it. Here’s what we recommend you track:

  • Serial number
  • Keg type/size (½ barrel, 1/6 barrel, etc.)
  • Product
  • Batch
  • Location
  • Status (empty, filled, at customer)
  • Last transaction
  • Days since last check
  • Days filled
  • Days at customer

Again, we recommend using a full keg-tracking system (ideally integrated with a business management software) to take some of the load off your shoulders after every keg is registered. Utilizing technology will allow you to train members of your team to use the software and keep your kegs tracked synchronously across the business. Plus, this will allow you to better keep track of inventory and simplify those pesky reports to the TTB.

The Answer

The answer to what you’re looking for is Ekos’s keg tracking module. By integrating your business and inventory management software with a keg tracking feature, your brewery will be set up for success and growth in the new year despite challenges with the supply chain. Plus, your customers will love that you’re on top of your inventory and want to ensure they have the freshest beer available. Get on their good side with our keg tracking feature.

Looking to learn more about the benefits of Ekos and the keg tracking module? Reach out to our team today for more information.

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Written by Jackie Park