Brewery Management Systems Recap

Part 1 of a 2 part series

Orchestrated Beer said it best when they stressed the importance of a "single source of truth" at this year's Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville, TN……but what is a "single source of truth" and which systems actually offer it?

First let’s look at what it means.  According to Wikipedia¹,

in information systems design and theory, single source of truth (SSOT), is the practice of structuring information models and associated data schema such that every data element is stored exactly once. Because all other locations of the data just refer back to the primary "source of truth" location, updates to the data element in the primary location propagate to the entire system without the possibility of a duplicate value somewhere being forgotten.

In layman's terms, this means you have one bucket of information to store and access your data. You’re writing to a single data model. There are no integrations, or connections, needed between different parts of your systems.  Integrations present disjointed data models.

Sounds simple enough. So, what does it mean when we look at the differences between a solution that claims they're an integrated suite versus a solution that says they are one seamless suite?

The answer is in the architecture. For example, is the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) piece and the manufacturing (MRP) piece built as part of the accounting system or do they have to be connected (i.e.) integrated?


verb  in·te·grate  \ ˈin-tə-ˌgrāt \
a : to unite with something else
b : to incorporate into a larger unit

If we’re talking about a Single Source of Truth (SSOT), a single, solitary, data model within which data is stored only once, it matters a lot if the systems tracking your business processes are integrated or built as one piece. One piece = One data model.

SSOT is a marketing term a lot of systems like to use because it is what customers want to hear. After all, it means simplicity, accuracy of information, and peace of mind. SAP Orchestrated Beer, MS Dynamics Vicinity Brew and Ekos Brewmaster all claim to offer a single source of truth, an integrated solution or all-in-one business system, but do they really have one? If your customer information lives in one place but has to be moved to another place, is it one source of truth? If your inventory receipts have to be pushed into the accounting system is that one architecture?

Imagine your production staff entering data while they’re busy on the production floor.  Now imagine two days later they tell you they made a mistake and need to edit a production order.  

For many of you, you know this scenario well and the challenges it brings.  That bit of data was already copied from the manufacturing database to the accounting database.  It exists now in two places. Maybe not a big deal, until you want to edit the record.

In an integrated system every bit of shared data needs to be copied from system to system, database to database, for the integration to work.  Depending upon the integration, an edit may be required in two places to ensure accuracy...but we are all human. What happens if we get a phone call and forget to update the accounting or the manufacturing system?  Even automated integrations present two copies of data. If you have to run a month-end report, which database should be the source of truth? From where do you pull the reporting? Are you confident the integrated system is pulling accurate data?

Looking at the ERP vendors at CBC with a verified customer base of more than five, is there an actual single source of truth out there?  

Solution ERP CRM Financials eCommerce
Brew x 5 X Integrate Integrate Integrate
Crafted ERP Single Data Model, Built on NetSuite
Ekos Brewmaster X Integrate Integrate Integrate
Orchestrated Beer X Integrate Integrate Integrate
Vicinity Brew X Integrate Integrate Integrate

Solutions with “integrated” accounting rely on journal entries to capture the accounting impact of the business operations.  Think back to that example of an edit requested by someone in production, and the need to now edit the related journal entry.  Do you still trust that data?

In part two of this article, we’ll review other important considerations for your systems search.