A passion for hops and the art of brewing is taking the world by storm. Running a commercial brewery, complete with a signature brew and an avid fanbase, is the dream for many brewing enthusiasts.
However breweries cannot succeed on passion alone – and today a suite of software tools is critical to managing an effective brewery. Thankfully brewery software is becoming both more effective and more affordable. Here we’ll look at some of the software tools – both industry-specific and generic – that modern brewers are using for batch and quality control, inventory management and ordering, customer relationship management, marketing, financial management and more.
Brewery software options – the big picture
There are two different directions you can go in when considering software for your brewery:
- Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
- Cloud-based software.
We’ll look at both of these approaches below.
ERP for breweries
Enterprise Resource Planning offers a way of running a business within a single system, thanks to its ability to integrate finances, human resources, suppliers, clients, inventory management, and manufacturing. An ERP system will also typically include sales and demand-modelling functionality, letting brewers plan how supply and demand will impact future production.
Other useful ERP features include:
- Distribution management. This refers to the process of ensuring the product reaches the hands of the consumer. For breweries, this involves distributing the beer to retail outlets such as bars, restaurants, and liquor stores. Their success depends on how efficiently they distribute their beer. ERP software takes the pressure off brewers to manage distribution efficiently.
- Recipe and quality control. Make sure you can replicate recipes and track its quality for health and safety purposes. If recipes and quality aren’t tracked, then you can’t guarantee consistent quality and flavour.
Generic vs Industry-specific
A generic ERP system such as MYOB for example can meet many of the software needs of a brewery within one system, but would typically be used by larger multinational brewers due the cost.
On the other hand an industry-specific ERP system such as Crafted ERP – a tailored solution based on NetSuite – has the benefit of the more expensive generic ERP scale with specific features like keg management built in.
Cloud-based brewery software
ERP systems are typically wholly or partially installed solutions. That means the software lives on a business’ own computers, and will often be customised to fit the needs of the company.
The downside of this approach is the system dates from the point of installation, and must be manually patched, updated – or up-sold – to avoid it becoming obsolete.
A cloud-based system (such as Unleashed) avoids this costly limitation by being delivered over the internet, with the user’s data secured in the cloud. A quality cloud solution will be improved multiple times a month with no effort or cost to the user.
For smaller and growing breweries, including as microbreweries, cloud-based brewery software is by far the better option.
Another major benefit of cloud-based software is the potential to build a full brewery management solution by combining multiple apps.
So for example a brewer might fulfil the functions below with the following industry-leading apps – all of which easily integrate and share data.
- Core brewery software (inventory management, production, purchasing, sales order management, B2B sales) – Unleashed Software.
- Accounting and finance: Xero
- Taproom point-of-sale: Vend
- Online sales: Shopify or Amazon
- CRM: Salesforce
Most cloud-based software solutions will have an integrations page on their site where you can see which other apps they work with: you can explore Unleashed’s integrations here.
Breweries that use Unleashed as their brewery software
The companies below are just some of the many brewers globally that use Unleashed as their primary brewery software. You can read more by following the links:
- ShinDigger boosts inventory management efficiency for their brewing company
- Epic Beer Grows Business With Efficient Inventory Software
- Seven Bro7hers Brewery Gets Visibility Over Every Keg, Can and Bottle
Your brewery’s layout will impact operations and your bottom line.
Software for planning your brewery’s layout
The way a brewery is laid out has implications on the business, from finance to distribution. This is especially relevant if your brewery runs a brewpub or taproom model. You want to make sure it’s customer-friendly while still efficient for your production team. It is critical to get the floor plan right to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and can facilitate the growth of your brewery.
Your layout should accommodate receiving and storing raw ingredients, the temperature and humidity-controlled space for brewing and casking, and the chilled area for the finished product. It must increase efficiency, transparency of materials and the easy control of all variables relating to the product. Perhaps less frequently considered, but just as important is the material used for the floor of the different areas of the brewery. It must be easily cleaned to reduce contaminants and bacterial growth, it must be non-slip and it must be durable. Likewise, drain and vent placement, and even fire doors and exits are imperative to get right.
Layout planning is easier with floor plan software such as Smartdraw and Solidworks. Brewery floor plan software is available in an easy-to-access online form where you can input your parameters to create professional plans that your builders, project managers, company management and staff can implement.
Accounting software for breweries
To ensure the longevity of your business you need to manage your finances. Apps like Xero and QuickBooks Online are cloud-based accounting software designed to help you track your revenue, bills, payroll and tax in real-time (and, as discussed above, they integrate nicely with Unleashed Software). A major benefit of a cloud-based accounting system is it makes your data accessible to an external accountant – meaning no more long nights creating reports at the end of each financial period!
Tools for marketing your beer
With more promotional outlets and creative options, brewers should look to digital marketing to capture attention. Make use of apps such as Untapped and TapHunter to encourage customers to review your beer and essentially put you on the ‘beer map’ for other eager punters. Likewise, social media activity across platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, is essential.
Designing marketing material
Your beer has to look as good as it tastes. That’s where design tools come in. Smaller breweries who have staff working multiple roles can try free online design tools like Canva. You’ll be able to design things such as social media posts, video posters, flyers, presentations and more. Alternatives include tools such as easil and crello.
However if you’re serious about standing out with the quality of your design you’ll either need to contract out to a design agency or fork out for a license on Adobe Creative Cloud for your in-house designer. Creative Cloud is the name for the software platform that includes industry staples such as Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
Beer sales and customer management software
You will be well-placed to investigate online sales options, especially in the current global crisis. One that is popular amongst breweries is Shopify. Here’s how Unleashed customers Crate Brewery set up their Shopify eCommerce store in under a week as part of their rapid response to pub and retail store closures in the UK due to Covid-19.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is vital for capturing every contact and nurturing that relationship. This will invariably result in satisfied customers and future loyalty. CRM software should be available on-site but also on-the-go, accessible whenever you connect with your mobile phone. They integrate customer details and order preferences with the inventory back onsite and any other relevant details. Top generic CRMs include Salesforce, Zoho and Hubspot.
Driving sales on the go with brewery software
Imagine being a sales rep on the road and you have left all your customer contacts and purchase history on a memory stick back at the office. A disaster that can easily be avoided with a cloud sales app. A sales app will allow you to see available stock, create quotes, view customer contact details and more.
Check out Unleashed’s Sales App to empower your sales team with the freedom and flexibility to make sales, work efficiently and deepen their relationship with their customer outside the walls of your brewery. Other options include Craft CRM and Rhino, which are designed for craft brewers, distillers and cideries.
Keeping your brewery organised
Sometimes a to-do list jotted down on scrap paper doesn’t cut it. Here are some digital tools to keep you organised.
A great one for breweries is Trello which is based on a Kanban project management system where tasks are represented by cards, and moved around a board based on various levels of importance and completion. This provides an easy overview and facilitates collaboration amongst teams of people. Similar to Trello, Asana is another great tool that different people in your brewery can use, whether they’re managing admin or design.
Week Plan is a self-declared priority planner for highly effective people. It is based on the premise that planning a week in advance rather than utilising an endless daily to-do list, ensures people are not overwhelmed and unable to prioritise tasks in order of need.
Your success depends on your team’s satisfaction.
Managing your brewery team
The strength of a company rests on the success and satisfaction of its workforce.
Paulaner, one of the oldest and biggest breweries in Germany, designed an app to manage employee experience. Staffbase links their decentralised workforce and keeps them connected and empowered. Faced with a future of remote work, this is vitally important.
Bamboo HR is another app designed to compile all data relating to employees in a central, organised location. It facilitates building the company culture through performance management and analysing employee engagement, and also keeps track of all your HR activities such as hiring, orientation and compensation.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.