What does your brewery need to do for Lot Tracking?

It’s official. Beer is food. That’s effectively what the Government of Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said on January 15, 2019 when introducing new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) for Canadians, explains Steve Grundy from McRae Integration.

With this comes new requirements for manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, those containing 0.5% or more alcohol by volume, to have a traceability system in place by July 15, 2020. Google the topic using a logical set of search words and you will quickly find these new regulations on the CFIA website and through a variety of other government sources.

Prepare yourself though, the SFCR document isn’t a light read. We’re talking about a government document designed to drive processes and procedures that protect the health of humans, so it is very comprehensive.

You should care about these new regulations if you:• Produce beer, wine, spirits, kombucha, cider, mead, or ready-to-drink cocktails• Trade interprovincially• Import or export your product outside of Canada• Sell your product at the retail level

By the time this article is published, it will already be 6 months since the CFIA made its announcement and you will have roughly 12 months to get your act together. If you are a brewery owner or a manager in this space, the big question is what do you need to do between now and next July to be ready?

Ask yourself – what do you and your teams know about traceability and what is required to be compliant with the new regulations? How can you achieve this without disrupting your business and adding significant cost and complexity in an increasingly competitive market environment? Also, is traceability only the responsibility of the producer?

What role do ingredient suppliers and distribution partners play to ensure the entire food chain is safe for consumers? This article won’t provide the answers to all of these questions, but hopefully, we can stimulate a positive discussion and generate action toward solutions that drive compliance and safe food for everyone.

Let’s start by defining traceability. Basically, it comes down to lot tracking of where your ingredients come from (one step back) and where you provide your finished product (one step forward). The following infographic paints a simple picture of a batch manufacturing process with lot tracking of inputs, work in progress (WIP – not required for CFIA compliance), and finished goods. Depending on the nature of your operation, this may be familiar to you.

Many larger breweries with automated process controls and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have the ability to automatically collect this data, manage and track inventory from start to finish, and get reports and analytics with a few simple mouse clicks. How does that happen? Ingredients such as malt, hops, and yeast arrive at the brewery and are received by an operator who scans a barcode on the container with the lot number and quantity. A programmable logic controller (PLC) processes the transaction and shares it with a database or, as is increasingly the case, directly with the ERP which then provides a location and internal lot tracking number that follows those ingredients through the facility. Internal work orders move the ingredients through the manufacturing process and the resulting batches of beer and other beverages are given unique batch records, a birth certificate of sorts, containing the quantities and lot numbers of the ingredients used. We don’t need to belabor the point but you can see how this carries on through packaging, finished goods, order fulfillment, and shipping. Of course, mobility technology such as smartphones and tablets provide instant access and visibility to this data. Having access to all this technology is definitely an advantage when it comes to compliance. If an inspector should come calling and ask to see the brewery’s records, the conversation should be straightforward and compliance should be easy to prove.

Now consider the opposite end of the spectrum. Suppose you own a smaller brewery with manual processes, limited information technology, and a small part-time staff. It doesn’t mean you can’t be compliant like your larger automated competitor – but you will need to have solid procedures, a discipline for data collection and accurate record-keeping, and a commitment to quality above all else. You might not have a bar code scanner to receive your ingredients, but if you check your most recent invoices from your suppliers, you will likely find the lot numbers for what you purchased. Someone needs to record that data at the time of receipt. If you don’t have an automated brewing system with instrumentation to measure and validate the quantity and lot number of the ingredients used, you will need to include these fields in manual brew sheets and the brewer will need to record these values every time. The same manual data collection process continues through packaging, finished goods, order fulfillment, and shipping. It comes down to accurate record-keeping and a commitment to quality – but there are inherent pitfalls to manual processes. Data entry errors are common and while they can be relatively easy to correct, spotting them can be difficult and extremely time-consuming.

What would happen if today a government inspector were to show up unannounced at your facility and ask to see your traceability records? How easy would it be to comply with that request? Take it a step further. What would happen if you were forced to do recall right now? Imagine you get a phone call from a distributor because a consumer complained of an “odd” aroma from a beer you just released. Upon further investigation, you discover that a significant portion of last month’s production is contaminated due to a yeast issue. How easy would it be for you to identify and quarantine all the products from that lot? How easy would it be to identify the lot numbers for the ingredients used? How confident are you be that you could contain the risk to the public and your brand? Have you ever done a mock recall to test your existing systems? If not, try it sometime and see how vulnerable you are. It might be a little uncomfortable, but it will reveal your blind spots and benefit you in the long run.

There is no step-by-step guide to traceability compliance, but there are plenty of great examples in other segments of the food industry where traceability has long been a requirement. There are people with years of industry experience that can help make your journey toward traceability compliance more efficient and effective. As you might expect, there are software packages available on the market that are designed for food and beverage batch processes. They use electronic procedures that allow manufacturing teams to gather the required data with minimal errors and make reporting simple and consistent.

To help prepare brewers for the new CFIA requirements, Beer Canada has put together an industry working group tasked with creating a template that brewers can use to implement a traceability system into their operations in advance of the July 15, 2020 deadline.

Members of the Beer Canada Working Group are currently touring breweries of different sizes to get a picture of how ingredients flow into and throughout the brewery before the finished product exits the brewery and enters the market. The Working Group is aiming to have the excel-based template available for brewers to use by the end of summer 2019.

“The ability for brewers to trace their ingredients back to the supplier and their finished products to the retailer is not only a requirement under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations but also a commitment to quality. A greater emphasis has been put on the importance of traceability in recent years and Beer Canada is taking a leadership role by ensuring that breweries of different sizes have the tools needed to seamlessly implement traceability principles into their brewing processes.” – Luke Chapman, Director, Federal Affairs, Beer Canada

This initiative by Beer Canada will provide breweries and other alcoholic beverage companies almost a full year to examine the template against their existing tools and procedures, figure out where they have gaps, and make changes if necessary to ensure compliance with the new CFIA regulations. Some may use this as an opportunity to up their manufacturing technology game and take advantage of the efficiencies and operational insights that follow. Others will do the bare minimum because that’s what they can afford and that’s OK. End of the day, this is going to shine a big light on how things are done in breweries and has the real potential to give a substantial lift to quality across the industry. As spirits, wine, and other beverages continue to put pressure on the beer industry, perhaps this couldn’t have come at a better time.

End of the day, it comes down to having a solid strategy built around a combination of people, processes, and technology to ensure the quality and safety of your products. Are you ready?

Source: https://www.brewersjournal.ca/2019/08/30/beer-traceability-in-canada-are-you-ready

This article was originally published by the Brewer’s Journal Canada, and republished with their permission. Brew Ninja’s inventory system provides a simple easy way to do lot tracking, plus a lot more. Please reach out to ask us how we can help you.

3 Easy Ways to Streamline your Brewing Process

Whether your brewery is just starting or is already pumping out a few thousand barrels a year, there’s nothing more important to your bottom line than efficiency. An efficient brewery minimizes costs and maximizes profits, and that could be all the difference when it comes to keeping the lights on.

If you’re looking for ways to streamline your brewing process and maximize efficiency, there are three places to focus your attention. It all starts with your staffing, brewing process, and software.

1. Streamline Your Staffing

It takes a team to brew, bottle, and distribute beer at volume. But it’s easy to let that team grow unsustainably—after all, what’s the fun in having a brewery if your friends aren’t part of the success?

That line of thinking can quickly lead to unnecessary staffing, which will lead to no fun at all. You’ll face a nightmare when it comes to scheduling and balancing your budget, and your friends won’t appreciate being part of an overstuffed workforce that can’t guarantee them enough individual hours (or dollars).

Host a Brewing Event

To balance this out, many smaller breweries host community brewing events, where friends, family, and fans come together to help you brew or bottle your latest batch of beer. These events are decidedly non-corporate, and they can be a lot of fun—but most importantly, they let you get a lot done without taking on extra costs. Volunteers get to learn what it takes to make the beer they enjoy, and you may find that offering a few take-home samples will be all it takes to encourage a decent turnout. 

Track hours of work

When it comes to maintaining a streamlined staff, keep track of your team’s hours and the work that’s being done in those hours. When you find areas of inefficiency, take action—whether that means scaling back your workforce so they’re not wasting time, or adding to it so that tasks aren’t falling behind.

Sure, tracking project hours is the sort of corporate overhead that you probably wanted to get away from by starting your own brewery. A little bit of corporate discipline can go a long way.

2. Build an Efficient Brewing Process

Keeping a streamlined staff is only part of the equation. The other big piece is maximizing the efficiency of your actual brewing process. Basically, how good are you at turning grains into beer?

Since every brewery is going to operate differently depending on size, equipment, and style, it’s important to focus on finding individual solutions rather than sweeping generalizations.

In general, there are a few steps you can take to maximize the efficiency of your brewing system. 

Visit established breweries 

One of the best ways to start examining your own efficiency is by seeing what others are up to. Arrange visits with other breweries, talk through their techniques, ask how they solved issues you’re dealing with… brewers love to talk shop and share their wisdom (and their tastiest brews).

Measure and minimize losses

Losses happen in brewing, even for the biggest and most efficient breweries. The trick is minimizing them, and to do that you have to measure them. Remember, the earlier in the brewing process your losses occur, the more impact they make on the overall production. 

Use the right gear

Having the right equipment makes a huge difference. Look for gear you can “grow into” but that won’t break the bank. Little timesavers, like quality labelers, will pay big dividends as you increase your output.

By putting the proper processes in place to ensure communication at each stage of production, you and your brew team will create delicious product that can scale for any amount. 

3. Get smart about software

Brewing is an ancient art, but that doesn’t mean it won’t benefit from modern technology. By using software to help with the tracking, selling, and operations, your brewery can run more efficiently and alleviate stress on your staff. 

Brewing software, like BrewNinja, allows you to streamline inventory tracking and get your sales and production teams on the same page. We often see inefficiencies, like staff texting in sales orders, and deliveries being organized on whiteboards, but with BrewNinja, you can remove these major sources of inefficiency. 

As with any endeavor, the better your data, the better your outcomes.  You need to be able to track your inventory—not just in the storage room, but in your tanks, coolers, and taps. This will give you a more complete picture of your brewery’s production, and let you make all the important efficiency adjustments we talked about above.

As with any work, the more effective your process is, the better your results will be. That’s why it’s important to evaluate and streamline your staff, maximize the efficiency of your brewing process, and trust your numbers to the right software system. Do all that, and you’re sure to find success.

Finding and Switching Accounting Systems: Why It’s Better to Commit Early

Are you a start-up brewery looking for a software service to manage your inventory? Or an existing brewery thinking about changing your accounting software? Are you thinking that it can wait, since you’re not open yet anyway? If you’re still looking for a good reason to switch now rather than later, you’ve come to the right place.

As technology has evolved, so thus has accounting. Technological developments in cloud-based document tracking have allowed for most accounting to be done quite easily on a computer, meaning it can be saved online and shared easily with other people.

If accounting has become easier to do individually, though, then why do we still have accountants?

Just because people can do their own accounting, does not mean that bookkeepers no longer have work to do, it just means that their work has changed.

In order to fully understand the importance of taking initiative when it comes to your accounts, we talked to accounting expert Sherri-Lee Mathers, who knows first hand that, even though accounting has become cloud-based, it has not necessarily become simpler.

silver laptop computer near notebook

“Accounting is no longer a singular activity in a singular software – today’s business’s and related app systems can be complex,” Sherri-Lee explains. She continues to demonstrate that accounting is no longer just accounting; it is also “inventory management, point of sale systems, CRMs, tax reporting, staff software apps(s) access, types of hardware being used to access, cloud or desktop, and of course both system & hardware security.”   

While you may be putting off switching or setting up your accounting system, it’s important to recognize that, since accounting is not just accounting, it is best to get it set up when you still have lots of time to spare.

It would make more sense to wait until the new year to switch, right? That way, you’re starting with new information and get a nice, clean start. But, if you remember that switching accounting systems is more than just switching account, as Sherri-Lee mentioned, then you can see how waiting until the new year to start with a brand new system might get very overwhelming, very quickly.

Sherri-Lee told us that, when switching accounting systems, “There are so many things to consider prior to accounting software selection.” There are not only lots of other areas that you have to account for (pun not intended), but there are also many things that you need in order for these areas to work together.

man wearing white top using MacBook

Furthermore, learning a new system is not easy. If you’re not switching until the new year, that means you’re going to have to learn how to use your new software fast. This is not always the easiest thing to do, because new software can be hard to learn, especially if you have multiple team members using it. Sure, you might be able to learn it in a couple of days, but it could also take weeks or months, especially if you end up making mistakes early on in the learning process.

In order to avoid the rush and panic, it is best that you start migrating early, so that way you have time to troubleshoot and make sure everything is entered properly.  Additionally, Sherri-Lee emphasizes that it is important to find an accounting professional with an industry niche who can:

  • determine a needs assessment of software
  • give related software recommendations
  • create a phased implementation plan to minimize disruption and stress to the business team
  • perform a system follow-up and health check

She explains further that, “An accounting professional with an ‘industry niche’ will not only have a deep understanding of the industry and accounting software, but they will have developed tools/automation, workflows, and processes to optimize ensuring efficiencies.  

Even though you might be able to manage it yourself, it is best that you rely on professionals who know how to help you, because they know best what and how they need to help you and keep you on track, such as,
“Having a key understanding of where and how specified apps integrate to ensure ‘clean data’ is flowing correctly to the accounting system will also allow for future artificial intelligence integrations and better business intelligence to the business owner.”

Not only can a professional teach you how to use the systems that you need, but they can also make sure that those systems are working to their peak capacity, such as allowing for cloud storage and generated reports.

two person writing on paper on brown wooden table

The biggest takeaway from this article is that it is never too early to start. No matter what your concerns are about starting early – perhaps the cost, perhaps you don’t have the time to learn a new system right now – you should understand that starting now means less trouble down the road.

We consulted Sherri-Lee Mathers from Balsam Way Bookeeping for the advice presented in this article.

If you’re looking for a professional to help you manage your accounts, reach out to Sherri-Lee at 778 427-1122 or sherri-lee@balsamway.ca.

Check out her website at www.balsamway.ca

Thanks for Reading!

Further Suggested Reading:

Is this the best time of year to switch from QBO to QB Desktop?

3 Ways the Role of the Bookkeeper is Evolving

Sherri-Lee Mathers and Bookkeeping’s Identity Crisis