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Winery's system a bottler

Publish Date: June 28, 2005


David Adams discovers that advances in clever software are helping to keep one of Australia's largest wine producers out of the red.

Adelaide company McGuigan Simeon Wines realises that outstanding success can sometimes be the mother of defeat.

Australia's second biggest listed winemaker, with an annual crush of 225,000 tonnes, is experiencing massive demand for its wines.  Chief information officer Ryan Klose knew the IT system that struggled to keep pace with the demands of the booming business was in need of an overhaul three years ago when the company bought Australian Vintage's Loxton winery in SA's Riverland.

From that acquisition, McGuigan Simeon inherited Ezy Systems' EzyWine financials and production management platform - then based on FoxPro, a Microsoft database programming language.  Despite the fact that EzyWine rolled into one package accounting, bottling, payroll, vineyard, asset register, marketing, budgeting, mail order, winemaking and plant servicing, Mr Klose realised its structural foundation was underpowered for big winemakers.

He began work with the software maker to build a new enterprise version of the EzyWine system, EzyWine Enterprise, that would digest far more transactions, thanks to its SQL foundation.

Mr Klose says the new system grows with the company and accommodates much more storage.  He says the SQL database system is more secure than the earlier FoxPro implementation; and processing speed is accelerated.

The system was turned on in mid-May after 18 months of building, which included six months of testing.

Using Microsoft SQL Server 2000 as the back-end database, it incorporates all of the business' main processes - from management of costs, debt control and quality control to data security, reporting, dispatch, stock control and accounting.

The extraction of invoices to compile a comprehensive sales report once took two hours a night, but the new system compiles them in about 20 minutes.

Mr Klose says SQL simplified the company's IT infrastructure. "It's important to us not to have too many derivatives of databases in our company, just to support it," he says.  "Using SQL means my staff can focus purely on the SQL environment and if you don't need to upgrade all these different ones, we're now just focusing on SQL.  So that's made a cost saving directly from our IT (department)."

As well as employing the EzyWine system at the enterprise level, Mr Klose says the company uses the software at its wineries - including Chateau Yaldara in the Barossa Valley and in the Hunter Valley, Sunraysia and Riverland areas of NSW, as well as a winery, storage and bottling plant at Merbein near Mildura, which it bought from Foster's Group.

"That's purely for winemaking purposes.  With the nature of wine production and the region remoteness, distributing installations to our sites gives us better contingency against telecommunication downtime and allows us to focus particular production practices over our various facilities."

Mr Klose says an advantage of EzyWine is that the winemaker contributes to the software's development by feeding suggestions to Ezy Systems, which then incorporates changes at no extra cost.

Ezy Systems' director, Nick Cugura, says this is a big reason for the company's success in the wine industry.  Of the 234 wineries in Australia 90 use EzyWine.  "The software keeps up with changes in the industry and cannot become obsolete," Mr Cugura says.

Those suggested changes help it support electronic data interchange, so sales information moves effortlessly between the winemaker and its outlets.

The company needs to introduce 100 changes each year - about half in response to the commercial environment and a smaller number relating to legislative changes.

"We're continually evolving and the system is certainly evolving very quickly," Mr Klose says.


Source: The Age

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