Breaking through 2000 with Ezy Systems
Publish Date: November 1, 1997
"How many software suppliers make changes for their clients at absolutely no cost. Ever?" asks Nick Cugura, Marketing Director of Ezy Systems.
Cugura knows the answer well enough. He's been in the industry for 15 years. After long being disenchanted with software companies that ignored the needs of their clients, Cugura and business partner, Peter Ellis, established Ezy Systems four years ago. Their EzyWine system is now the most comprehensive and widely used winery software in Australia.
Policies and Features
In 1993 the pair started from scratch with the intention of developing a system solely to meet the needs of wine producers - from vineyard management to grape processing and wine production, through to full general ledger accounting, stock control and payroll. Assisted by riverland producers Miranda Wines, Rossetto Wines and Australian Vintage, the software expanded rapidly as suggested enhancements were developed, tested and implemented.
The software now encompasses every aspect of the wine industry. This includes meeting AWBC, Liquor Licensing, Australian Bureau of Statistics and Customs reporting requirements.
Ellis says that the company's success can be attributed to two factors. "We don't charge clients for changes or enhancements, and we provide genuine service and support." He adds, "We see it like this - clients suggest enhancements, we introduce the enhancements for all of our clients. This makes for a better product and therefore more attractive to potential customers. It makes good business sense."
A list of more than fifty Australian clients indicates that the software is suited to both small and large wineries. Smaller premium producers such as St Hallett, Pepper Tree Wines and Vasse Felix appear alongside names such as Simeon Wines, Alambie Wines and Kingston Estate.
"Another major factor," adds Cugura, "is the ability to consolidate all aspects of the business into one comprehensive management system." The vineyard, production and packaging modules are fully integrated through to stock control and general ledger. Payroll, marketing, plant servicing and an asset register are also linked. Says Cugura, "This means that wineries can discard a number of their old stand-alone software packages and save a lot of double handling."
In addition to this is a feature that would be of obvious interest to all wine producers. The tracking of grapes and wine through the various processing stages enables the client to accurately assess the cost and composition of their finished product. "This is naturally a major point of interest to wineries who are in the market for management systems," agrees Cugura. "EzyWine can tell them the real cost and profit margin on a bottle of wine."
From a technical viewpoint, the preferred network platform for clients is Windows. "That suits us fine," says Ellis. "EzyWine is designed to run on a Windows platform, operating on either Windows 95, Windows NT or Novell networks. That's what the client wants."
In 1995 Ezy Systems took the EzyWine system to the New Zealand market where it was exceptionally well received. Matua Valley, Rapaura Vintners and Villa Maria are all enthusiastic users of the software.
David Nevans, Group Accountant for Villa Maria, had given careful consideration to purchasing the right information system to fully integrate operations at their three production sites. Villa Maria decided on EzyWine. Confirming Ellis's claim, Nevans says he was impressed by the no-cost enhancements offered by Ezy Systems. The winery now has thirty staff utilising the software at any one time across three winery sites in Auckland and Napier.
Later in 1995 interest in the software spread to South Africa. Cugura spent three months in the Cape region learning how the wine industry operates and how business is conducted in a growing South Africa. Success came rapidly with installations at Boschendal Estate in the Stellenbosch region, and Robertson Co-op, a grower owned winery in the Robertson Valley.
The number of clients in both South Africa and New Zealand rose quickly as word of mouth spread. Distributors were appointed in both countries in 1996 and business is booming. There are now thirteen EzyWine clients in South Africa, while in New Zealand, Nobilo Vintners recently became the twelfth site.
While the primary focus is on the winery management software, the company has also developed a small stand-alone vineyard management system called EzyVine. This package is based on the vineyard module contained in EzyWine and is sold separately to grapegrowers.
This product is presently being further developed under a business arrangement with Dr. Richard Smart from Smart Viticultural Services. Cugura is understandably pleased to be involved in this partnership. "Richard travels a great deal in his role as a viticultural consultant and the exposure he will give the EzyVine software will be vast. The benefit to him is that this product will complement his existing range of services."
In the short term, Ezy Systems aims to consolidate their success in the Australian wine industry before expanding further into overseas markets. Says Cugura, "Over the past two years we've remained fairly low key. We have not been as active in the market as we would have liked."
The reason for this he explained was due to legal action from a minor competitor who claimed copyright on Ezy Systems' ideas. Says Cugura, "Basically, in the end we won. They completely withdrew their case and are paying our costs. We've been completely exonerated and we are now seeking damages."
The future looks bright for the company. "It's an exciting time for the wine industry and for Ezy Systems. We're very busy right now. We've been averaging two installations each month but we have the capacity to do more." Domaine Chandon and the Wingara Wine Group (Katnook Estate) are the latest sites to move to EzyWine.
"After the distraction of the past two years we can focus all of our energies into further development of both EzyWine and EzyVine, and no doubt we'll get to meet many new wineries in the process!"