Updating the industry: using software to update whisky business practises
The scotch whisky industry is fiercely traditional, but businesses are under pressure to keep up with modern practices. Elliot Gardner looks at whether there’s room for the use of modern business software in whisky manufacturing.
At a recent London press event arranged by business software company Epicor, the topic of modernisation in the scotch whisky industry was raised.
Scotch whisky manufacturing is one of the most rigorously regulated industries in the United Kingdom, with the Scotch Whisky Act 1988 being passed to protect the production, distribution and sale of the spirit, bringing with it a set of definitions that must be conformed to if a drink is legally to be called ‘scotch’. The act has since been superseded by the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009, which updated the rulings to include production, labelling, advertising and packaging of whisky. It’s worth noting as well, that the legislation pays particular heed to the fact that scotch whisky manufacturing practises must be ‘traditional’.
It was surprising then, to receive an invite to such an event, which showcased the relationship between Scottish distillers Bruichladdich and its use of research planning technology, as any interaction between new tech and scotch walks a fine line when it comes to ‘tradition’ as defined by the Scotch Whisky Act/Regulations and protected by staunch whisky defenders the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
The system being used by Bruichladdich is Epicor’s Tropos. According to international executive vice president Sabby Gill, Tropos allows companies to keep up with changes in technology in their sector. Gill went on to discuss the need to be agile in business, quoting a recent article in the South China Post that claimed technological advances in the next five years will come swifter than in the last ten.
Modernised process manufacturing
Epicor describes Tropos as, among other things, a recipe-based process manufacturing system that aids in materials traceability, scheduling, and regulatory compliance. Simon Coughlin of Bruichladdich was brought in to sing the praises of the system, describing his personal experience with Tropos: “It certainly made a huge difference to our business, there’s no question about that…it gave us the confidence to carry on with what we were doing, because we knew we were getting accurate numbers.”
And when the time came to move on from being an independent entity, Bruichladdich already had all the necessary information to hand. “I think it made the process of selling the business and due diligence very simple, because it was all there. And certainly regarding audits from customs and excise.”
It is unlikely that a system such as Tropos will cause any upsets, though there are certainly questions to be raised about how the industry can be modernised in response to the rapidly evolving world referenced by Gill. The SWA is sure to flinch at the call for the whisky industry to keep up with modern practices, but whisky manufactures will surely have to invest in technology such as Tropos, for no other reason than to maintain a competitive edge.