Ed Jeffries, production manager of Epic Brewing Company, fitted right into Epic. Despite her background in wines, she likes beer people. “They are more real, like myself. They don’t mind sharing brewing secrets. If you take a sip and ask, ‘How did you do that?’, they’ll tell you, ‘I did this… and I tried that…’.”
Even more importantly, as Ed says: “I like beer”. She’d been dabbling in home brewing herself before she joined Epic and couldn’t believe her luck when she found herself at her first taste-testing of a special new brew at the contract brewery, Steam Brewing Company in Otahuhu. Ed’s usually processing orders and taking care of accounts in Epic’s small Penrose office of five, but she relishes any chance to “partake in brewing”.
Having a creative boss who’s been winning awards since 1998 means a stream of new recipes, batches and labels to oversee in addition to the four standard labels. “Luke says, ‘Let’s do this!’ and so far we’ve made another five beers this year. Epic is big all over New Zealand, with our biggest seller here still being Epic Pale Ale which Luke created when he started out as a volunteer at the Cock & Bull. He designs all his own beers now and is a marketing guru, exporting to Australia, the UK, the USA, and even a little to Ireland, but our biggest overseas customer is Sweden.” Epic beer can be found all over supermarkets, liquor stores, and bars around Auckland.
Ed had plenty of questions for talented brewer Luke Nicholas when she joined the Auckland-based brewing company in 2012. When she started, there was no stock management system; all the information about product, inventory and stock were in Luke’s head. “I needed to get it out of Luke’s head so he could think of other things. That’s where Unleashed comes in,” says Ed.
Small craft brewery, big problems
The budding craft brewery was getting too big for guesswork. Within two months of Ed joining the Penrose head office, she was production manager and in charge of implementing an inventory system she was familiar with from her previous employers in the wine trade.
“Epic was already with Xero so we talked to the accountant,” says Ed, “and he confirmed that Unleashed Software was a good solution for us. No off-the-shelf programme does exactly what you want it to do, but most of what we wanted was there, and it fitted with Xero.”
Their supply chain also posed a challenge. With a focus on high quality beers, Luke sources ingredients from all over the world. They source malt from England and Germany, and hops from America and New Zealand; getting it all together can be a challenge.
Planning for the future was also a problem. “Hops are ordered five years ahead, so informed planning and forecasting is important for knowing how much beer to make,” says Ed.
Reliable brewery software
Ed took time to understand what she wanted from Unleashed Software. “I knew that implementing a structured inventory system would open a can of worms, but it was a can that had to be opened. It would free Luke up to do what he’s good at. I knew naming, for instance, would be a problem so I spent a lot of time thinking about little things first, and how do we handle things like building raw materials and cases of beer.”
Unleashed was up in a week and was running well within the month. “Unleashed puts everything into stock on hand and you can see exactly what your costs and income are. And because we don’t own our brewery, it’s also helped with confirming which stock is ours. Once managing batch numbers is nailed, and you don’t have to rebuild one product as another product so you can get the excise duty rebated if an export order suddenly comes in, it will be very good. If a product is for export to start with, it’s not a problem.”
The weather is beyond control but reliable brewery software reduces the seasonal fluctuations and uncertainty that go with Epic’s new recipes and their imaginative, talking-point labels. “Labels are a big thing to get right because one batch of beer makes 900 cases and there are two dozen bottles in each case. But the higher the alcohol content, the less beer you get from a batch. We don’t want to hold too much stock, and we don’t want to run out.”
Better brewing future
Unleashed delivers a journal that comes through with every sale, detailing the cost and income. Epic can see how much money they’ve made on a monthly basis, and can plan accordingly. “From a cost point of view, Unleashed has definitely helped,” Ed decides. “Previously we could see our dollar value in Xero, what our sales were, but we had no way of tracking the actual costs of goods for a particular item until Unleashed was introduced.”
Unleashed’s batch tracking feature was incorporated into Epic’s food safety program. With accurate tracking and tracing of all their products, Epic is easily accountable for all their beers, and it speeds up their food safety checks.
“The major difference Unleashed has given to us is that we can, at a touch of a button, look at what stock we have; there’s no more guessing. It’s great for helping us plan.”
Being a cloud-based inventory management system, Unleashed can be used anywhere with an internet connection. Even though they have an off-site warehouse, Epic knows how much stock they have in each warehouse. “We need to know landed cost, how much stock, what’s coming in and what we’re going to use. Unleashed is helpful from that point of view. It’s got multi warehousing so you can have different stock in different warehouses. You always know what you’ve got where; it’s great,” says Ed.
Epic also uses the detailed sales data and reports to guide business decisions and back up sales processes. This is especially crucial in justifying which beers to bring back, and what beers to make more of.
Since implementing Unleashed, Epic has grown year on year with the help of an efficient inventory management software. Like Epic Brewing Company, you don’t need to second-guess your stock with the visibility Unleashed offers.
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.