Managing Beer in the Cloud

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Golden Road Brewing considers itself a startup, but don’t expect it to be that for too much longer. It is a craft brew with “big brewery” goals – and it is using technology in innovative ways to create a big impact in the market. Golden Road, based in Los Angeles, is investing for growth with a cloud-based solution from SAP and OrchestratedBEER. Co-founder Meg Gill and general manager Paul Burgis recently spoke to us about starting up a craft brewery, a few challenges, and how they are taking their beer to the next level.

Recalling her early experiences in craft brewing, Gill says she saw “a small booming industry that had so much passion and great flavor behind it, but very little infrastructure to handle the growth.” So she brought in Burgis to help do something unique in craft brewing: leverage technology as an enabler.

Craft beer startup gains steam

Those efforts have paid off. “We have turned this little startup into a real business,” Gill says proudly. Golden Road expects to produce 18,000 barrels of beer in 2013, which might just be the most volume of any startup craft brewer in only its second year.

Next page: Technology helps brew sustainable growth

But hops and water will only get you so far.  “You need creativity and dedication to make great beer,” Gill says. “This should be balanced with infrastructure and systems to make it a sustainable business.”

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face many challenges when it comes to basic infrastructure. Many times, spreadsheets are the only answer for running the business (inventory management, production schedules, or sales processes). As a result, manual reports proliferate and they are tough to manage and consolidate.

ERP system crucial for success

When Burgis joined the team, he found there were no servers or data management systems in place. He felt that establishing a simple technology strategy to set up the mission-critical systems was crucial. Golden Road is also installing systems that large or established businesses take for granted, such as ERP software.

Next page: Fresh beer sells

Gill is adamant about one thing: becoming LA’s premier craft brewery. “Beer tastes better when it is local because it is being delivered fresh from the source,” she says. Beer velocity is about keeping fresh beer on the shelf – a tightrope that impacts production, distribution, and customer satisfaction. Gill makes a face whenever she hears that Golden Road IPA has been on the shelf longer than a few weeks. This gets especially tricky for a startup craft brewery growing as quickly as Golden Road, which adds new points of distribution daily.

Speed and agility are crucial. Running on the cloud enables Golden Road’s management team to gain transparency into the business. Systems can help achieve a single version of the truth – and real-time answers to questions such as: What’s going where? What has been brewed today? What has been packaged today? “With the right systems in place,” Burgis says, “you have the opportunity to remove inefficiencies.”

Technology improves brewery logistics

Receiving an order used to mean that someone had to manually figure out what was needed for raw materials, packaging, etc. Now it means someone plugs in the numbers, and the system maps out each process: what, how much, and when to buy. Golden Road keeps costs low, manages its inventory better, delivers a fresh product and forecasts more accurately. Without technology, none of this would be possible.

Next page: Capitalizing on opportunities

Costco recently asked Golden Road for 6,500 cases of its flagship Point the Way IPA – with a lead time of only four weeks. Many craft brew masters might react with “hops shock,” and then turn down such a request.

“Because of our ability to see into the brewery, we were able to meet the Costco delivery schedule,” Gill says. Golden Road was able to shift production schedules, assign distributors, and make raw material deliveries “on the fly” to meet the requirements.

Cloud computing is the future

Startups and small business do not have large IT resources or a lot of time to manage technology projects. Yet they may need to be up and running in days or weeks, not months – and the hardest part might be training the staff and gaining buy-in. A cloud solution enabled Golden Road to make the investment needed in an ERP system without breaking the bank. Having all data management systems on the cloud makes it possible to access information anytime, anyplace and on any device. In short, it helps business run better.

Next page: Technology for a sustainable business

Technology helps Golden Road expand in Los Angeles

It takes drive and dedication to succeed as a craft brewer, but that only goes so far. Technology can help create a sustainable business, as it clearly enabled Golden Road’s early success. With the “Fresh beer sells” mantra, the company continues to expand its distribution points in the greater LA market. As more and more Southern Californians experience Golden Road’s brews, the company will be able to respond with increased capacity.