By Patrick Baker.
In The Business of Wine Part 1 and Part 2 we reviewed benefits and concerns using MS Excel and traditional software to track your winery operations before exploring the benefits of having fast access to key information.
A particular aspect that we touched on was the efficiency of having single data entry touch point with multiple use output for different departments within your wine business. Keeping data up to date is key if we need to pull that data back out into meaningful reports. Lab data during fermentation for example, or tracking bulk and packaging inventory for an impending bottling are key data elements crucial to effective resource planning, e.g. tank turns, equipment utilization, crushpad capacity/throughput and bottling scheduling.
A little about me
After a successful career in corporate America, I transitioned to the wine industry and have become an industry veteran with 10+ years experience as a grower, winemaker, and winery General Manager.
My role as former General Manager for Carneros Vintners custom crush facility and sister facility Lodi Vintners, was the impetus for my investigation of winery production software options. My work with a variety of wineries exposed me to an array of winery software before deciding on the vintrace platform to run the custom crush facilities and since, a few small and larger boutique wineries. My hands on winery experience and real life use of vintrace are the foundation of my success representing the vintrace software platform in North America.
Like any other business, we also need to generate more usual reports for inventory, movement and dispatch recording. Ideally these reports be pre-formatted as PDF or exportable to Excel and easily reproducible for crew to generate and conduct physical audits from without having IT or Accounting staff involved. vintrace has a bevy of standard winery reports organized by categories that can be downloaded or emailed to anyone you choose.
The real test of a comprehensive reporting system though is reportable AND actionable access to data not necessarily pre-configured, commonly called ‘ad hoc’ reporting. Some might remember the old Boolean (true/false) search parameters to query older database back-ends with archaic verbiage and characters, and if you didn’t know how, you had to request a special report from the IT or other department that generally took a period of time to get for you…and it was usually not quite what you wanted but close enough. That was then, but I’m still surprised at the limited ability for ad hoc reporting from the majority of current winery specific software. Perhaps that’s why so many of us resolve to endure Excel.
Ease of custom searching
vintrace’s approach to complex ad hoc searches is to utilize key field filters with easy drop downs or wildcard text fields. Since there are so many fields/data to search on, vintrace segregates searches by type; Lots, Inventory, Vineyard, Barrel, Tank & Dispatches for a more reasonable selection of filters to create your report. Each search screen is displayed in 3 sections – filters on top, results of those filters in the body, and options for what you can do with the results at the bottom. If you’ve endeared as many data management systems as I have, vintrace’s approach is magical in its forethought and simplicity, to easily produce and/or/between/and not, searches. A great example is a search for all lots that S02 hasn’t been tested greater than one month. From the search results you can print a spreadsheet, or order labs, or add the lab request to a work order, copy results to add back to other results, and most significantly Save Search.
Saving a search to easily reproduce the conditions of an ad hoc report is super smart, but vintrace goes a step further by giving you the option to share those saved searches with other staff and most significantly, to add it to the ‘My Searches’ dashboard box that is always available on your home screen. Now you can monitor that ad hoc report without even running it, since the My Searches list constantly tabulates.
As an added bonus, you can set conditional logic to change the search text if the results exceed a threshold; e.g. If I’m responsible for the bottling line and I have a saved search monitoring stock of a certain glass mold and that stock dips below 30,000 bottles, I set the text to color orange, and below 15,000 it changes to red – for a visual indicator that I need to order more, pronto!
Of course winery reporting is particularly different from traditional business relative to the numerous compliance reports for various regulatory and tax bodies. We spent some time on TTB reporting ease via vintrace in the previous article The Business of Wine Part 1.
While some other systems provide adequate ‘702’ data reporting (albeit arduous to get to), Vintrace goes a step further to easily and simply ‘mass declare’ your wines on a specific ‘702’, e.g. December/4th Quarter. For those of us that do the ‘702’ reporting and keeping track of what needs to be declared, and when, this particular tool is a boon for compliance ease and once again exemplifies the theme of a single data element (gains/losses) being smartly accessed to make winery staff that much more efficient. If you’re the person responsible for ‘702’ reporting you have to see this tool in action!
Other compliance reporting for harvest/crush report and excise tax gallons delineated by tax class, are also key reports that usually take considerable time to collect and compile from a mass of Excel worksheets, and then reconfigure to paste into the required reports. These are standard reports in vintrace that compile the data for you to simply copy into the regulatory Excel report/forms.
The last couple of necessary reports we constantly work ‘around’ are composition and audit report. These aren’t usual reports per se, so different than all of above, but yet are significantly important to maintaining our bond and peace of mind. We’ll spend more time on these report topics in future articles, but relative to our current topic, these are reports critical reports that vintrace produces that keep us out of hot water and provide credence during an audit.