Headquartered and founded on the Scottish remote Isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides in 1881, Bruichladdich is a globally renowned whisky distillery that mainly produces single-malt craft Scotch whisky. During its long history, the distillery has had many owners, but in 2001 Simon Coughlin and Mark Reynier purchased the distillery, keen to build on Bruichladdich’s heritage in the whisky sector, and transform it into a progressive yet artisanal Hebridean distiller. From January-May 2001 the whole distillery was dismantled and reassembled with the original Victorian décor and equipment retained–much still in use today. No computers are used in production with all processes controlled by skilled artisans largely measuring progress using dipsticks and simple flotation devices.
While Bruichladdich had both legacy and moxie in its favor, it lacked the technology infrastructure to expand. Regulatory compliance was a huge sticking point – specifically complying with requirements from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Bruichladdich needed to control and track every liter throughout maturation, to bottling, to dispatching. Armed with only a basic stock control system and spreadsheets, the task of compiling forms and daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly reports detailing every order was laborious – and soon grew to a mammoth reconciling operation forcing night and weekend work to meet deadlines.
What’s more, the company’s legacy stock control system couldn’t incorporate bottling as a process to support the move of bottling operations from a third-party warehouse in Glasgow to its Islay headquarters. Management had become used to throwing more bodies at the old system, but now recognized the need to offset escalating labor costs by investing in a new system.
To meet the company’s plans for growth, the business needed a solution that would not only incorporate bottling – a critical element in getting its product to market – but also help move financial reporting from single-entry spreadsheets to an automated and reliable system, and support global compliance, stock control and traceability requirements.
After searching for a suitable system, Bruichladdich selected Epicor Tropos. The solution was a solid fit, as it was advanced enough to incorporate bulk stock control and bottling functions, and was in use at other distilleries.
Epicor Tropos supports sales via tele-sales, EDI, web portal with full CRM, provides forecasting and dynamic schedule replenishment in response to customer demand, support for manufacturing and scheduling, as well as materials traceability with sophisticated batch traceability, regulatory compliance and financials.
While front-line artisanal craftsman focus on whiskey making, back-office operations are now scalable and efficient.
With all financial and accounting information integrated within the Tropos system, reports and actionable data can be accessed by all levels of the business for improved access and collaboration. The system tracks every purchase order going through the business–from orders in the distillery, to a bulk order of lids, to keyrings in the gift shop.
Bruichladdich now has greater data confidence for better business decisions. Previously, if margins weren’t quite right, it was unable to determine what was off and where. The business can now pinpoint discrepancies in reports quickly and effectively, for reduced risk and greater agility.
Tropos’ bottling operations support has given Bruichladdich improved automation and control in this key area, positioning the company for growth. In 2016, the company augmented its bottling capabilities, adding a second automated dedicated line for its The Botanist gin bottling.
Ease of regulatory compliance has improved significantly, clearing the path for global growth in distribution and supporting expansion into new sales channels. For example, in August 2016, the company announced it is now fully compliant with current US regulations for private individual import, whereby Bruichladdich can now deliver its premium spirits direct to clients for personal consumption in the majority of states.
Since implementing the new system, the business has grown exponentially. Originally distributing to around 20 countries, the business now distributes to more than 60, and growth shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, the forecast is that in 2017 it will be distributing 320,000 cases around the world–a colossal increase from the 5,000 cases it distributed in 2001.
Key to this growth has been having the right technology foundation in place to enable Bruichladdich to address the requirements and complexities that are unique to its market, and to the regions in which it distributes its products. For example, in its bottling operation there are 12,000 individual part numbers in the system, ranging from glass, corks, cardboard, tins, sealing, capsules, and labels–all needing to be ordered, delivered, stored and coordinated. Legal standards of the different regional territories can be as little as 50ml, but all need to be taken into account and sometimes can be accommodated via subtle changes to the glass.
Following its acquisition by Remy Cointreau in 2012, Bruichladdich plans to add an overnight shift and double production, to one and a half million liters a year.
ERP solution: Epicor Tropos
The whisky industry is undergoing a renaissance, driven by consumers looking for brands steeped in tradition and authenticity, with innovative production methods and ingredients. Whisky’s resurgence has seen boutique bars appear in major cities worldwide as the category continues to diversify and grow.
While you could say Coughlin and Reynier had exceptional foresight to take on Bruichladdich at the right time to make good on this trend, there’s a bigger, more nuanced story. In 2001, when they purchased the distillery it had been mothballed for 7 years. Getting a whiskey distillery going takes time. Even if everything went well, the spirit would need time to mature in wooden casks: the standard minimum age for a fine Scottish whisky is 10 years. Given this math, a revivified and independent Bruichladdich would have a 10-year-old whisky sometime in 2011–but only if it survived that long. In the interim, they found ingenious ways to make young whisky palatable–even delicious–and to sell it for aged-whisky prices. In 2006, Bruichladdich started releasing a wide variety of limited-edition whisky experiments–many bottled at 6 years old or younger, turning the industry on its ear.
While they have kept to their roots in crafting spirits with integrity, authenticity and character, they have not shied away from innovation and progress–a fact that's also exemplified through adoption of new technology to forge growth and expansion.
The vision of Coughlin and Reynier continues now under parent company Remy Cointreau. In 2016, a new warehouse was opened, underscoring its commitment to mature all of its whiskey, for all its life, on the island. Sited near the original 1881 distillery, the facility has eaves towering 36ft. above ground and foundations comprised of 584cu. feet of concrete. Workers and Islay grain farmers, who support the distillery, were invited to roll in the oak vessels during the opening day celebration.