Is integrated software for you?
Publish Date: November 1, 2002
Winery owners often ask Nick Cugura and Peter Ellis, co-authors of the EzyWine winery management package, whether they should consider integrated software. As directors of Big Hill Vineyard in Bendigo, Nick and Peter view technology from the perspective of winery owners as well as systems analysts.
Nick says over the past decade most medium to large wineries have moved away from running several stand-alone software packages to fully integrated systems.
But as a rule, Nick said wineries should only consider integrated software if they processed at least 500 tonnes, had at least two computers networked and had a full time accountant or office manage and a winemaker who were prepared to use the software diligently. If so, Peter said integrated software produced more reliable information by eliminating errors due to multiple entry of the same data.
The main advantage of integrated software is not so much the consolidation of all the winery activities into one package, but the integration of critical data between the modules, like general ledger postings and stock movements.
When the winemaker, for example, records a simple operation such as adding a chemical to a tank, the following should occur:
- Record the chemical against the wine in the tank in the winemaking module.
- Add the cost of the chemical against the wine in the tank with the average weighted cost derived from the purchase order module.
- Decrease the chemical stock on hand in the stock control module.
- Credit the chemical stock on hand balance sheet account in the general ledger module.
- Debit the bulk wine stock on hand account accordingly.
- Adjust the stock valuation for both the wine and chemical.
- Adjust the average cost of the wine in the stock control module.
- Display a warning message if there isn’t enough chemical stock on hand.
When recording the above cellar operation, the winemaker should not be prompted for costs or general ledger accounts. The costs should already exist provided the purchase order, stock control, weighbridge, cellar operation and bulk receival modules have been utilised correctly and it’s the accountant’s responsibility to record the appropriate general ledger accounts against the chemical and bulk wine stock items.
Benefits of integrated software
“Users of EzyWine have achieved integration to varying degrees,” Nick said. “Some clients have identified gross double handling and experienced significant savings in producing monthly management reports (such as sales and financial reports) and statutory reports (such as BAS, Wet, ABS and LIP).”
Other clients are satisfied with only using the accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales, purchasing and stock control modules, which only makes up 20% of what the package offers.
Nick said most wineries utilising EzyWine were running at least four packages prior to opting for integrated software – accounting, winemaking, payroll and a myriad of spreadsheets. Many wineries were also using additional packages like report writers, POS (cellar door sales software), wine club management and general ledger consolidation packages.
Some of the benefits of integrated software include:
- Consolidation – winery’s transactional activities are consolidated into one repository making all the information easily accessible to all users.
- User access – integrated software allows you to specify which menu options each user can access. Some users may be restricted to reports only, while others such as sales representatives may be restricted to their specific sales figures only.
- Savings - significant savings in time and labour costs as the need for double entry (and the associated errors) is greatly reduced. This relates to stock movements, costing, general ledger posting and multiple company consolidation.
- Procedures streamlined - integrated software allows you to introduce uniform processes that may not have previously existed at the winery. When an invoice arrives from a chemical supplier, for example, the accounts payable person must match the invoice against the purchase order before payment can be generated.
- Management information - sales figures, stock valuation, financials, asset valuation, vintage progress and cash flow projections are always current.
- One vendor - no confusion as to who to contact when assistance is required.
- Transport integration – vineyard managers, winemakers and packaging managers don’t need to understand average and perpetual costing and general ledger, as this occurs in their respective modules without them even knowing.
- Removes dependency on spreadsheets - that often provide unsubstantiated figures, allowing staff to focus on running the winery rather than creating complex macros and formulas. Nick said some spreadsheets were so complex that only one person in the organisation could maintain them. “What happens when they’re gone?” he asked.
- Errors highlighted - any errors recorded in one module will be highlighted in other modules and noted by other staff before they become a major problem, whereas errors in a spreadsheet are more difficult to detect.
- Training easier - all the staff are using the one software package rather than having to learn several. The different modules would have a similar feel in relation to how data is captured, processed and reported, making it possible for staff to train and support each other.
- Additional information - integrated software provides additional information that isn’t available when running several stand-alone packages, such as general ledger postings, costing and stock movements when processing vineyard, weighbridge, winemaking, bulk despatch/receival, packaging and plant servicing operations.
- Historical information - reports and dockets can be reproduced for previous vintages and financial years, unlike spreadsheets that provide no history, and some accounting packages that lose information on rolling a financial month or year.
- Statutory reports - BAS, WET, WET rebate, GST, Superannuation, Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation label integrity program, customs fortification, occupational health and safety, grower and creditor withholding tax, Australian Bureau of Statistics and PAYG requirements are met.
- System administration easier - the computer network administrator no longer needs to battle with making lots of different stand-alone packages operate on the same network and current version of the operating system.
- Reduced maintenance costs – maintenance, support and upgrade costs will be potentially less, as only one package is needed.
- Multi-user - integrated software provides multi-user functionality unlike spreadsheets and some accounting packages that can only be accessed by one user at a time.
Issues to be considered
Computers within the one location and across multiple locations must be networked before integrated software can even be installed. An easy way of checking the network is to try to print a word document from your computer on every printer that the winery owns, at every location.
Staff need to be provided with reasonably fast computers and printers, otherwise they will become frustrated. Staff may also need to be sent on introductory computer courses if they are not confident in the use of computers, otherwise they may fear both the computer and integrated software.
Nick said when members of management were not excited about utilising integrated software and didn’t value what it had to offer, there was little chance other staff would record information, let alone ensure it was done accurately.
“Ensure that key staff are involved in the decision to purchase and manage the integrated software, so that there is a sense of ownership,” he said.
Integration with other software is important. The winery may be part of a larger group that uses a stand-alone payroll system or a third party reporting tool like Cognos. Export and import options should exist to allow transfer of data between packages when necessary. Nick said it was important that someone was appointed system administrator or project leader and was responsible for the implementation and maintenance of the integrated software. This person could also be responsible for liaising with the integrated software vendor.
“Equally important is that the integrated software provider has sufficient staff who will provide professional support. The vendor's support staff need to be competent in winery accounting and procedures. They also need to be enthusiastic and passionate about integrated software and the winery industry, and be able to train users at all levels with varying experience with computers and software,” he said.
“Management also need to clarify the cost of enhancing the integrated software as changes in the organisation and the winery industry are inevitable. Ideally, the vendor should welcome suggestions and not charge for these changes as enhancements are improving the vendor’s software.
Ezy Systems integrated software
Australian company Ezy Systems is a market leader in fully integrated winery management software in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Bulgaria and is positioned to do the same in Chile. Nick said developing integrated software was complicated, time consuming and very expensive and EzyWine comprised of thousands of menu options and had been 30 years in the making. “I’ve yet to come across a winery that had comprehensive integrated software prior to purchasing EzyWine,” he said. EzyWine also provides additional integration features including:
- Integration with devices - interfacing to devices such as barrel scanners, POS, weather stations, time clocks, temperature control systems, sample analysers, contract bottling systems and weighbridge scales saves time and money and ensures accuracy.
- EFT - simplifies paying growers, employees and creditors.
- Email - allows reports, dockets, invoices and purchase orders to be sent electronically.
Although the EzyWine package is extremely comprehensive, when you include the inbuilt sales analysis and general ledger report writers, most users only need to be conversant in a dozen or so options. The package can be easily customised so that each user only sees the options relevant to them.
Nick said the software was still being enhanced at the rate of almost 200 enhancements every six months, at which time each winery was personally visited by support staff and updated with the latest release. Wineries are encouraged to make recommendations and the enhancements are introduced at no extra cost, ensuring that the package doesn’t become obsolete.
Almost every winery has introduced changes to varying degrees. Contract winemaking facility, Boars Rock in McLaren Vale, has been instrumental in enhancing the winemaking module interface to the accounts receivable module with the automatic generation of sales invoices. Paarl Bottling in South Africa and Marlborough Bottling in New Zealand have assisted with interfacing the packaging module to the sales invoicing module. McPherson Wines, Evans & Tate, Grant Burge and Wingara Wines have all had input. Simeon Wines provided the specifications for stock tendering and grower payment bonuses based on colour analysis.
Source: Australian Vignerons