P-36. Software in brewing: When it’s time to build your own software (and when it’s not).

Presenter: Mike White, White Labs Inc., San Diego, CA.

Software that provides tracking of lots serves as an important tool for breweries in the modern era. Lot-tracking software can maximize a brewer’s use of ingredients, ensure a higher level of quality control, and provide a consistency of product. Brewers throughout a plant can be sure they are using the appropriate ingredients, and they in turn will continually update the database via technology solutions, such as handheld devices, or they will manually enter the information into a computer. Lot tracking can also serve as an important tool for ingredient companies, particularly those that take large amounts of product and either separate or combine them through the production process. But, the technology is far from easy to implement. Given the varying sizes of breweries, the wide variety of ingredients, and the daunting challenges of training staff members to use advanced technologies, implementing a technology solution to track ingredients within the plant is no easy task. In almost every case, the solution means creating customized software solutions. The presenter, Mike White, is communications director for White Labs Inc., which over the past five years has implemented a lot-tracking system called Yeastman. The system tracks production in the company’s San Diego, CA, yeast plant, keeping tabs on such data as when lots are split or expanded. The internal system is tied into an online site that answers the #1 question the company receives from its customers: "When can I get my yeast?" The challenges were immense, and the final product varies considerably from the beta models. Yet, with perseverance and commitment, and significant investment, full implementation of the system in 2010 coincided with one of the strongest years of expansion in White Labs’ history. White will provide a wealth of experience on what to think about before and during implementation of a customized computer program for your brewery or related business. This is intended as a big picture, non-technical presentation. In other words we are not comparing the various software solutions; we are getting you to think about what questions you need answered before and during implementation of your technology solution. The presentation will 1) highlight the top 10 questions to be answered as part of the process; 2) display a chart showing our own customized technology solution (Yeastman); and 3) provide a list of 10 things you need to implement after you create your technology solution, such as intense and ongoing staff training.

Mike White serves as communications director for White Labs. White joined White Labs in 2005 after working as a newspaper reporter for many years. For more than a decade he has published Craft Beer Quarterly (CBQ) , which is sponsored by White Labs and other companies. In addition to publishing CBQ and other materials for the company, Mike maintains the White Labs’ website, administers the online tracking and ordering system (Yeastman), works with the customer service staff, and attends trade shows and festivals.

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