Wineries Toast Management Software

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Those bottles of bubbly bringing holiday cheer to so many company parties can serve as big lumps of coal in the stockings of winery owners who don't have the right accounting packages. They must keep track of the special magnum-size gifts along with the traditional 750-ml bottles, constantly inventory which restaurants are running out of stock, calculate taxes for different states, and figure out which customers are valuable enough to receive greeting cards.

Because many wineries start off as small facilities run by families, technology has been slow to catch on, leaving bookkeepers boggled down with manual labor. But Elypsis, a software vendor based in the heart of wine country in Napa, Calif., is providing help through a strong partnership with Microsoft.

Established in 1987 as a Solomon reseller, Elypsis started off selling a horizontal application like any other VAR, but was geographically situated to acquire several wine clients.

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"We just made the solution fit as best we could so the wineries could manage everything they do," explains Jeremy Grant, vice president and chief operating officer of Elypsis. "We decided Solomon wasn't the product we wanted to do that with."

Grant started working for his father, Harvey, at Elypsis in 1991, when he was still in school. Although he graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting and had planned to become a CPA like his father, his desires soon changed. "I'd rather teach them to use this technology so they don't spend all day reconciling their bank accounts," Grant says.

To help make that happen, he picked up Navision based on its speed, stability, and source code, and spent two years developing a wine-specific platform, called E-Winery, to run on what is now Dynamics NAV.

The first E-Winery product was sold in March 2003. Today, roughly two-dozen wineries utilize E-Winery, and Grant expects to double that number within a year.

Elypsis provides allocation, depletion, and distribution tracking; wine club management; customer relationship management; credit card processing; and point of sale integration with Microsoft's Retail Management System.

In January 2004, Elypsis introduced WineClub Manager, an add-on module for Navision. About 45 of Grant's clients utilize RMS and WineClub Manager, which helps automate club processing, and roughly 15 companies resell it. Without it, many wineries must punch credit card numbers into a system every month and manually deal with declined cards.

Some clients estimate they achieve a 40 percent time savings using this module, which can process 1,000 wine club orders per hour, changes sales tax based on the members' ship-to location, and exports reports to Microsoft Office for mail merge and custom reports.

E-Winery serves as the ERP system for wineries producing 5,000 to one million cases of wine per year, as opposed to some of the nation's largest that produce 50 million to 70 million cases annually. The RMS product can scale to any size, however.

E-Winery handles the need for multiple units of measure so wineries can report their sales by gallon depending on the tax class, which is based on alcohol content, and internally report in 9-liter equivalents (a normal case of twelve 750-ml bottles).

Companies also can determine profitability by customer.

Winery owners often take distributors to dinner to promote their beverages, paying for airfare and hotels. "A lot of them find while Customer A was the most profitable based on total volume, in reality, Customer C was much more valuable based on lower maintenance," Grant says.

Maintaining customer relationships at the retail level is an increasingly important focus.

In January 2005, Elypsis unveiled QuickCapture, a tool that gathers customer information from driver's licenses in less than 10 seconds.

"If someone's spending $75 for a bottle of Cab, you want to know who they are," Grant says. "Loyalty among these customers is key."

Alexandra DeFelice is Associate Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at alexandra.defelice@sourcemedia.com.

Elypsis

HQ: Napa. Calif.

Founded: 1987

Employees: 13

Products: WineClub Manager,

E-Winery, POSLink, QuickCapture

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