- Location: Islay, Argyll & Bute, United Kingdom
- Industry: Whisky Distillery
- Number of Locations: 3
- Web site: www.bruichladdich.com
"There is no question that the Tropos Solution has made our business more controllable and more easily accessible. This is important not only to the company, but to the people who work here. It has transformed what we do."
Simon Coughlin, Operations Director | Bruichladdich
Epicor Adds Key ERP Ingredient to Bruichladdich
Epicor Tropos ERP software cuts lead times by over a week, eliminates overtime and delivers HMRC reporting at the click of a button at Scottish whisky distillery Bruichladdich.
Bruichladdich is a small, privately-owned Scottish distillery on the remote Atlantic Isle of Islay. It specialises in producing artisanal single malt whisky, just as it did in 1881.
The business is growing at a rate of 10-15% a year, its latest annual revenues exceeding £7.5 million. As a result of this growth, Bruichladdich found that it was becoming increasingly hard to efficiently monitor and optimise its production activities and stock levels. The company makes over 100 different products, which is a lot in the whisky industry.
Although Bruichladdich had installed an automated system for managing bulk stock movements in recent years, many of its core processes, including those managing the bottling side of the business, were still handled manually using spreadsheets.
"As the business grew, we found we had to throw more and more people at the administration," recalls Simon Coughlin, Operations Director at Bruichladdich. "It was becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile stock numbers; things had become difficult operationally."
Meanwhile, due to the growth of its business, the distillery was coming under increasing pressure from HM Revenue & Customs to implement approved systems for financial reporting.
Calling In The Experts
Bruichladdich had asked its existing software provider to develop a system that would automate the management of its bottling operations. When the system eventually materialised, however, Simon Coughlin was disappointed with its scope.
This prompted the distillery to approach Epicor, which has a comprehensive portfolio of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions for process manufacturing and distribution with modules specifically designed for managing distillery businesses.
Coughlin says, "We read about the Tropos system in a trade magazine article. It appealed because it would allow us to automate and control all aspects of the business. We wanted a system that could extend right from the front end of the business-something we could use as a customer database, managing everything from incoming orders to eventual export.
Bruichladdich has implemented an integrated suite of solutions from Epicor, based around the company's core Tropos system. This includes Tropos Whisky Workbench, a module which gives complete control over cask stocks and blending.
Together, these products allow the distillery to record, track and manage all orders, stock levels, production planning, bottling/ packing and despatch on an end-to-end basis.
"Often, companies put in automated systems later down the line, to reduce overheads," Coughlin notes. "We wanted to strike proactively, investing in better systems up front so that we wouldn't have to reduce staff numbers later."
The systems were up and running within a year of the initial approach to Epicor, which impressed Coughlin and his team. "Tropos is completely embedded in our organisation now, from buying barley to bottling and storing the whisky, right through to export," he says. "It's all-encompassing. We can't operate without it."
Visibility is a significant area of improvement. "Tropos is a live system, with accurate, up-to-date, integrated data from right across the business, including bulk, production, bottling and despatch,"Coughlin explains. "Tropos links everything together seamlessly, even integrating with our i2i export document management system, another solution that Epicor recommended, which takes care of export paper work."
The impact on the productivity and efficiency of the business has been "enormous", he notes. Most significantly, Bruichladdich is now processing export orders at least a week faster than previously. "Being on a small island, our lead times can be quite long, but now our sales teams around the world can log in and see our stock," he says. "They no longer have to send an email or wait until the next day to be able to check our supplies."
The accountants have a much easier time now, too. "The numbercrunchers are more comfortable that we are in control of our stock and what its value is," says Coughlin. "There are very, very few surprises now. Before Tropos, we were under a lot of mental stress and strain, especially when it came to doing the month-end returns for HMRC. We needed to relieve that pressure."
Now, fully automated HMRC reporting has reduced this process from several days' effort (spent consolidating fragmented data from across 4-5 departments) to a simple click of a button. And when HMRC conducted an audit recently, the process took no more than a day, with no concerns raised. "Before, the audit might have taken 2-3 days, but it went very smoothly. More importantly, we had complete confidence in the data," he adds.
"We read about the Tropos system in a trade magazine article. It appealed because it would allow us to automate and control all aspects of the business. We wanted a system that could extend right from the front end of the business- something we could use as a customer database, managing everything from incoming orders to eventual export."
Simon Coughlin, Operations Director
From Fire-Fighting To Business Forecasting
If Bruichladdich hadn't implemented Tropos, it would have at least 2-3 additional staff looking after administration by now, Coughlin calculates. "That figure would be even higher if the market was stronger. Before Tropos, peak periods demanded a lot of administrative overtime and late nights, which wasn't great for people and was costing us money. Now everything is running smoothly, live information is readily accessible, and we have full confidence that it is accurate."
Previously, staff could spend 'forever' reconciling information before they could see a clear picture of any aspect of the business, he says; now they can be more proactive because up-to-the-minute information is available on tap. The need for overtime during peak periods has been eliminated as a result, while managers are now able to allocate more time and energy to strategic planning.
Says Coughlin, "In my own case, the Tropos system means I am no longer immersed in the day-to-day detail. I have a lot more brain space to look at the business as a whole, which means I can look at new suppliers, consider stock levels and formulate new plans-the things I could never get to before, because I always had problems in my face."
Currently, Bruichladdich is in the process of extending Tropos, (including mobile barcode scanning), into a new warehouse facility for storing bottled products. Here, Tropos Mobile RBA (Role-Based Applications) will be used to track and record movements in real time, using the latest handheld scanners. "The aim is to avoid using paper, to maintain efficiency and keep our lead times down," Coughlin explains.
Looking ahead, he would like to see the distillery further exploit the business forecasting facilities of the Tropos system, to boost strategic planning. "There is so much more that Tropos can do," he notes.
With the close support of Epicor, Bruichladdich is in good hands. "I've been very, very impressed with Epicor from the beginning of this whole process," Coughlin concludes. They have shown a complete and in-depth understanding of our business from start to finish, and the implementation has been exceptional. Whereas other software providers in the past haven't always delivered, Epicor has delivered exactly what was promised.
"There is no question that the Tropos solution has made our business more controllable and more easily accessible. This is important not only to the company, but to the people who work here. It has transformed what we do."
Epicor Software Corporation is a global leader delivering business software solutions to the manufacturing, distribution, retail, and service industries. With more than 40 years of experience, Epicor has more than 20,000 customers in over 150 countries. Epicor solutions enable companies to drive increased efficiency and improve profitability. With a history of innovation, industry expertise and passion for excellence, Epicor inspires customers to build lasting competitive advantage. Epicor provides the single point of accountability that local, regional, and global businesses demand. For more information, visit www.epicor.com.