Things are running well in Einbeck — thanks to Drink-IT

perational data at a glance: ERP systems
All operational data at a glance: ERP systems work behind the scenes, managing all business operations and processes. Due to the complexity of these systems, many companies shy away from changing over and instead cling doggedly to their often DIY Band-Aid solutions (photo: Thisisengineering RAEng on Unsplash).

Switching to a new ERP system

When was the last time you actually gave any thought about your operating software? Ahhh, so everything’s running then. Or are you feeling more like things could be better somehow? More networked, more integrated, more streamlined — but you dread the effort involved? The brewery Einbecker Brauhaus AG in Einbeck, Germany, got down to business in 2019 and decided to bring its ERP system up to date, turning to the technology company NORRIQ and its industry solution Drink-IT. A good decision, and the effort was worth it: The project ran smoothly, thanks to meticulous planning and full dedication.

Many companies shy away from changing over

Enterprise resource planning, or ERP for short, is a sizable term with sizable substance. ERP often commands significant respect from many companies if they have to modify well-established structures. It’s no wonder: ERP systems are complex. They silently manage all the operational data of a company in the background. They organize a company’s business processes, making them more efficient. And this leads more than a few companies to hold off questioning the enterprise software they’ve been using for years — despite often still using homespun Excel spreadsheets or cobbled-together Band-Aid solutions. They somehow just resign themselves to dealing with it.

The life cycle has come to an end

But at some point operational structures change, market requirements grow, and employees need improved cross-departmental networking and increased data exchange. At the latest at any of those points it’s clear there’s no getting around adapting the existing IT structure. It’s not uncommon to hear that software has a life cycle spanning about 10 to 12 years. That’s about when an old IT solution typically stops delivering what an operation demands of it.

This was also what Einbecker Brauhaus AG was experiencing. The brewery had been using a now legacy version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV (now Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central) and a retired industry solution since 2010. The old software no longer supported many requested, needed functions. Since the Einbeck brewery was generally very satisfied with NAV, they needed a software solution based on NAV or Business Central that could be merged with other software applications through interfaces.

Rows of bottles filled with Einbecker Brauherren Pils
Rows of bottles filled with Einbecker Brauherren Pils, a pilsner beer

“We had very definite ideas”

After having conducted research and engaged in discussions with other brewery colleagues, Einbecker Brauhaus’s management very quickly learned about the company NORRIQ, headquartered in Denmark. Their industry solution Drink-IT seemed to model exactly what the brewery was looking for. “We had very definite ideas about what the new software needed to be able to do,” Martin Deutsch, CEO of Einbecker Brauhaus AG, states. “Our primary focus centered on brewery-specific requirements such as seamlessly documenting the beer tax, correctly handling deposits, and managing and processing restaurant credit and lending.”

From production to logistics

A vertical beverage-management software, Drink-ITis based on the Microsoft Dynamics platform and complements the Microsoft NAV standard in terms of all the areas specific to the brewery: sales and marketing, warehouse and logistics, finances and tax matters, production, quality, and service and contract management.

NORRIQ also came with good references: The Danish company has seen international success with their industry solution for many years now in different lines of business in the beverage industry. In Germany, the Drink-IT ERP solution is intended to especially provide support to small and medium-sized breweries and beverage companies as well. NORRIQ Deutschland GmbH assists companies with widely varying sizes and needs, including the breweries Wieninger, Schwarzbräu and Oettinger.

Industry knowledge is a major plus

Deutsch was also especially impressed with the extensive industry knowledge the NORRIQ team brought to the subsequent initial meetings. “The conversations were of equals right from the beginning,” the CEO recalls. We didn’t have to go into detail about the interconnections with brewing. They brought knowledge about the processes to the table, which, of course, made our decision even easier.”

Luc Vandeweyer, Drink-IT Sales Director, adds this in reflecting on the initial meetings at the brewery in Einbeck: “With so many technical innovations, the art of brewing has evolved over the centuries. And a complex market environment calls for appropriate management solutions. However, the Einbecker Brauhaus’s management always held that solutions had to remain practical and proportionate, too. They viewed our software as meeting all these requirements.”

The Einbecker brewery
The Einbecker brewery and its structures have grown considerably over the years

After two intensive days of talks, the two companies decided to work together. That sounded the starter gun marking the beginning of the marathon for the team headed by Stefan Carle, a project manager at NORRIQ Deutschland GmbH and the company’s operations manager for the DACH region.

The starter gun has fired

A group of project participants comprising five consultants from NORRIQ and a 10-member project team from the brewery kicked off their work together at the beginning of February 2019 with a multiday workshop. Taking stock and budgeting were on the agenda. “Meetings like this at the beginning of a project serve an important function,” Carle says in discussing the goal of the workshop. “In these five days, we have to develop a feel for the customer’s requirements and find out the specific issues we’ll encounter along the way. You get to know each other. The chemistry has to be right. A project this big can only succeed when you create a solid foundation of trust.”

A cornucopia of new applications

The tasks were comprehensive and the time frame for getting them done was short. The workshop participants worked together to first play through all the processes, with Carle explaining to the Einbeck team the many new possibilities the switch would offer the company. They were going to completely replace the old system with all the needed functions and additional applications. Among other tasks, the team was going to connect the document archive and fine-tune financial management and reporting. A further project task included integrating contract management into such areas as credit and permanent lending.

The transition phase

This phase started with the technical installation of the underlying system Microsoft Business Central (spring 2019 release) and the beverage-management solution Drink-IT, followed by collecting the master data and inputting rudimentary data. This task alone took about three to four months. Concurrently, the same core team had to develop scores of interfaces in order to integrate the existing external software.

The company definitely wanted to keep several systems in operation, including Matrix Time for recording time; external payroll accounting; the program Edifact for transmitting orders, delivery notes, invoices and the like; and the production and warehousing system Prime. The teams wrapped up the transition phase with training for key users and end users as well as with load and functional tests.

The big moment: Will everything work?

Nine labor-intensive months had passed. The moment had finally arrived: launch day — the crucial day that would show if replacing the new system with the old one would go off without a hitch. The last outstanding receipts, orders and purchase orders were transferred into the new system. Then the switch was flipped. A short moment … Then relief in the air. The go-live went off like clockwork. The last few months of planning and effort had paid off.

The reward for the effort

“Replacing an old system can be a Herculean task: The existing aged, fully developed infrastructure of the old ERP system had quite a few subsystems and definitely posed a challenge,” Carle says, adding with satisfaction: “But it wasn’t a big surprise to us that everything worked well. After all, the entire project was handled as we had planned. The teamwork with the Einbecker brewery was incredibly positive right from day one. The brewery’s key users had continuously worked very closely and effectively within the team. And the brewery management extended their full support for what was needed. We could really sense their desire to have a new system.”

In Einbeck, the brewery is just as pleased with how well the system changeover unfolded. Schedules and budgets were met, the go-live went off without a problem and the new brewery-management solution has been performing exactly as it’s supposed to since day one: It streamlines processes, makes procedures more effective and, in the process, increases the company’s profitability.

Was it time-consuming? Yes, indeed it was. But the project was worth it. And nothing ever really works without putting effort into it. But with the right partner at your side and a well-considered strategy, it’s definitely easier.

Would you like to find out about current trends on the beverage market and exchange professional information? Then we invite you to take part in the next drinktec, which will be held in Munich from September 12 to 16, 2022.

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