Ekos Brewmaster, craft beer focused business management software, has come a long way from my first initial meeting with them after the Portland Craft Brewers Conference in 2015. Josh and Greg were new on the scene and were full of big ideas. After reviewing the product, I told them that they needed to add functionality before I could fully get behind it. It took a while, but I’m beginning to see where they are going and it’s very exciting.
New Functionality Around Brewing Stages
In the beginning, Ekos used to use brewing stages. Early adopters found it difficult to add each change into the system. So, to make things easier, Ekos eliminated stages and simplified the process to start batch and package batch. While that works in the big picture, it doesn’t work so well when understanding where you are in the brewing process. Anything added after the boil will never be correct. Using the old method, any dry hop additions would have to be added at the beginning of the batch even though the actual addition may not happen for a week or so. End of the month inventory would be off as the dry hop addition could take place after month-end.
Another big issue is planning and forecasting. If you don’t plan for the beer in stages, you can’t understand when a beer is completed. Anyone in the brewing industry learns very quickly that wort doesn’t always ferment according to plan. Being able to change things on the fly is critically important to the finished product.
With this understanding, Ekos spent a few years working on things under the hood. They have completely revamped the brewing process so that users can move the beer along in stages. In that process, they have added functionality that I haven’t seen anywhere else. They are using the beer stage idea to attach items (chemicals), people and labor hours to the stage. In theory, when this is all fleshed out you can set up your brewing schedule and then give each person a list of tasks to do for the day. Those tasks can include other items (such as chemicals) so that other inventory items are consumed as you go. You can even attach labor to a stage. Now we are on the verge of having true labor and overhead costing right inside of Ekos.
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Lot Tracking is Now Active
Proper inventory tracking is the key to a successful Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Many systems will do a good job of tracking quantity, but it is also imperative that breweries track inventory lots throughout the process. Not only is it a good idea to track raw material lots, it is an FDA requirement that you know how and where your raw material lots were used. I’ve been a part of two recalls in my brewing life and without lot tracking, it is almost impossible to understand which customer kegs have which lot of malt inside of them.
Lot tracking was available in other systems, but with the new enhanced upgrade, it is available to all breweries who turn it on. Admittedly, it is a lot of setup, but once the database is setup and everyone is used to adding the data, lot tracking will become second nature. To start, you will need to tell Ekos that you are turning on the feature. There are some settings on the back-end that they have to turn on before it will work. For lot tracking to yield the best data, you will need to track raw material, work in process, and finished beer. That is done by using the raw material lots on the malt or hops bag (or add the receiving date to a malt bag). In Ekos, you will see the lot number field appear when you are in the ‘item receipt’ document. You will need to add the location before adding in the lot number. Every brewery uses some kind of batch number when mashing in. Why not use that number throughout the process to the finished good? To do that, you can stamp the lot number on the keg collars used that day, as well as add the batch number to a line on the date coder. This way each can is coded with the proper batch number.
Don’t forget to label the finished pallet. Usually an 8 ½ x 11 template works fine. Most packaging managers just print out the number of templates needed for the packaging run. The template should contain the name of the beer, item number, date packaged, and batch number. Label all four sides, that way you can see what is what from all angles.