Tim Godfrey is the head cidermaker and a partner in Golden State Ciders in Sebastopol, CA. They have proliferated from an apple grower’s 200 case experiment in 2012 to 110,000 cases in 2020, processing 5000 tons of apple juice. Not surprisingly, Golden State needed more robust systems to ensure consistent high quality once they had surpassed what Godfrey describes their initial process of “sheer force and will.”
Why Production is a Moving Target for Cider
Tank Scheduling was the most critical feature Golden State Cider needed in its production management system. Unlike brewing, which happens year-round, or winemaking which is entirely seasonal, cider making is both done year-round and seasonal. Golden State produces its Core cider line all the time. Freshly pressed bulk juice is delivered daily. Tanks are tightly scheduled from fermentation tanks to blending tanks and then to bottling tanks throughout several months. Golden State also makes Seasonal ciders, called Local Harvest and California Farm, from site-specific apples, pressed and delivered only in September and October. Seasonal ciders ferment more slowly, occupying a fermenter three times longer than a Core cider.
For cider makers like Golden State, back-orders are unacceptable, if they can’t keep the retail or on-premise shelf stocked, their competitors will. So Godfrey needed a robust tank scheduling module that could plan for Seasonal ciders while keeping them in-stock on the Core line.
vintrace’s Equipment Scheduler module gives Godfrey the ability to link tanks and scheduling. Godfrey stated that this feature alone “makes vintrace worth it by itself. Like a hotel reservation system, vintrace “books” bottling, blending, and fermentation tanks based on future demand. For example, cider that needs to be packaged 60 days from now is reverse “booked” or scheduled into a bottling tank for A days, blending tank for B days, and fermentation tank for C days. This results in that specific apple juice to be delivered D days from today. Godfrey can now see when he may have available capacity and adjust for slow-fermenting seasonal ciders by reassigning the fermentation time. He couldn’t do any of this with a spreadsheet.
Work Orders Created Problems
Paperwork orders were error-prone, both in execution (a ‘7’ can look like a ‘1’) and in transcription from work order into the database. Human error needed to be eliminated.
Golden State now has accurate digital work orders that eliminate re-entry of handwritten paperwork orders, improve data quality, and save time and money. Also, vintrace’s Work Order system is improving its process consistency. Essential standard operating procedures such as the tank cleaning regimen are pre-inserted into the work order, reducing human error, reinforcing employee training, and on occasion, avoiding a catastrophe.
Compliance for Cider Offers Unique Challenges
Godfrey used a brewery based system, but cider production reporting is different than for beer. His system didn’t give him government compliance reporting for 702s. So he used a calculator prone to errors, or as Godfrey put it, “It’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘how many’ mistakes are you going to make?”
vintrace’s Government Reports instantly and accurately creates submission-ready 702 reports. vintrace gives Godfrey a detailed file that lets him see data entry mistakes, saving his team “hours and hours, without reporting errors.” Godfrey estimates that vintrace saves Golden State Ciders 3-4 full-time staff between compliance, work order generation and logging, and other administrative work.
Accurate Reporting is Crucial in Any Enterprise
Godfrey focuses on maximizing efficiency and minimizing product losses, but his current system couldn’t provide useful data, leading to the issue of “if you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it.” vintrace’s ability to report detailed loss data allowed Golden State to engage in loss reduction, reducing product losses. Godfrey could finally see the key loss drivers, or as he explains, “knowing how much and where you are losing product is 95% of the battle.”
Some unexpected benefits for Godfrey included vintrace’s sheer power and scalability. He initially focused on tank management, compliance, and digital work order, but now integrates many vintrace lab features. The lab is now part of the product approval process and must sign off that a batch meets internal specs. Only then is the batch released to the canning line, making it virtually impossible to package something that hasn’t been lab approved.
Vintrace gives Golden State 100% lot traceability from the lot codes printed on the cans back to the orchard that grew the apples.
Drawing on Godfrey’s multi-years of vintrace experience, he offers this advice to getting started. “vintrace is powerful, so you don’t even realize much of what it could do for you. Let vintrace’s team guide you and help you get critical data assembled before you start. Focus on starting with the modules that will give you the most benefit (at Golden State it was equipment scheduling.) and add other parts later.”
Working with vintrace.
“As industry leaders, vintrace keeps it simple and useful for the cider industry. They’ve always been willing to work with us. I’ve spent the time with their engineering and customer service teams to make it work for our cider applications.
I know vintrace is dedicated to making cider work.”
Tim Godfrey, Head Cidermaker & Partner,
Golden State Ciders, Sebastopol, CA
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