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Deschutes Brewery’s new ERP creates one source of truth

A recent LNS Research report called Understanding Industrial Transformation Today reveals how investments in industrial transformations — based on digital manufacturing technology — at factories are growing at a pace of 82 percent over the last six years.

Most plant managers must make decisions based on real-time data. One company moving quickly in this direction is Deschutes Brewery, the seventh largest craft brewer in the United States.

With this challenging landscape, the company sought out a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform to provide a foundation for growth and pursue increased enterprise optimization. Deschutes chose JustFood ERP software with the help of Ultra Consultants, a business process consulting company. Ultra Consultants evaluated ERP vendor offerings for Deschutes and mapped out the current state of the brewer’s business processes, such as inventory tracking and scheduling processes. 

The takeaway, according to Tim Alexander, brewery operations technology manager at Deschutes Brewery, was the need for an ERP platform that could be more accessible throughout all business units.

“With our previous system, our accounting department would have to take reports from other production departments and duplicate that information into the ERP system,” says Alexander. “Then operations would do physical counts once a month, and there would often be discrepancies.”

The brewer’s initial objectives with the new project was to reduce reliance on Microsoft Excel and move toward real-time inventory and “one source of truth” in the JustFood ERP platform. The JustFood ERP customizable platform uses Microsoft Dynamics NAV software as the foundation and targets food and beverage producers contending with batch process challenges. For the Deschutes application, the platform is an end-to-end solution and covers both processing and packaging operations.

For example, the ERP platform at Deschutes provides the ability to create mandatory quality audits and checks — pre-receipt to entry-to-exit.

“The platform has excellent functionality around batching, capacity management, defining equipment operation steps and being able to blend different batches into each other,” says Alexander. Other elements of the ERP manufacturing/production module at Deschutes include bill of materials (BOM), reverse BOM, production cost analysis and a master production schedule.

Besides the manufacturing/production software options, Deschutes currently uses the food safety compliance, warehouse/inventory, purchasing and reporting analytics within the ERP platform.

As with many of today’s enterprises, the ERP system is a mix of automation and manual processes. From an automated perspective, the recipe management system moves all production-related data and lab data detailing the blending of different batches and final product specifications into the ERP databases via operators. Manual processes include general batch-to-batch information in the process area and packaging line production data, such as material consumption and output volumes.

“We plan to automate more processes, but we’re focused automating the internal systems that we have full control,” says Alexander. “We want operators and warehouse personnel entering data in the ERP system, first, and then eventually move production data automatically via our control system.”

Deschutes uses Emerson DeltaV control for its batch processing on the brewing side and Rockwell Automation’s Allen-Bradley PLCs on the packaging side. The company is also using Inductive Automation’s open-source supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) platform to connect to the business units. “We’re using SCADA to kind of tie those two together,” says Alexander. “The recipe management system is a SQL database and is at the front end of that database.”

The brewer added temporary internal resources for the ERP implementation and also used JustFood integrators for the 14-month project. Deschutes cut over to the JustFood ERP system in April 2018 and already has seen operational efficiencies after a small defect with one of its bottle suppliers. “Instead of days or weeks of time for our quality assurance manager to find the defective batch, it was minutes,” says Alexander.