In the not-so-distant past, winemakers relied solely on memory and well-worn, possibly wine stained, spiral bound notebooks to keep track of the winemaking process.
As regulatory requirements have increased and winemaking has become big business, memory and notebooks no longer suffice. Modern winemakers are benefiting from the use of technology in myriad ways ranging from automation of tasks using sensing technology, to improvements in productivity and planning, to using data to drive winemaking decisions, to simply being able to comply with requirements pertaining to tracking for recall purposes.
When adopting technology to improve operational efficiency, wineries would be well served to consider the following:
1. Modern software and hardware make the benefits of technology available where it is needed. Many, if not most, of a winemaker’s tasks are not performed in the office. Winemakers work in multiple locations — vineyards, labs, cellars and, yes, offices and boardrooms. The tools needed in each of these locations differ.
When selecting winemaking software, it will be important to choose an application that is versatile enough to deliver the features needed for each.
Winemaking software is available across devices and should function equally well on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It is important to factor in access to wireless networks in scenarios remote from the main office location.
In addition to usability across devices, a winemaking team will need to consider the features of the software.
Can it be used to track grape characteristics in the vineyard? How easily can chemistry be tracked and reported? Can thresholds and alerts be set to notify the team when the threshold is approaching or achieved? Does the application offer tools to automate mundane tasks and allow the winemaker to tweak repetitive tasks without starting from ground zero?
If the winemaking team is providing custom crush capability, does the software support this activity, including service billing? Does the application interface with other winemaking tools, such as those used for sensing directly from the tank and weighing at the scale? Can the application be used to easily quantify and illustrate key points to stakeholders through integration to common office and presentation tools and dashboards? Will the software vendor be able to work with the team to implement the software into the team’s workflow to achieve the maximum benefit?
2. Technology, properly selected and incorporated into a wine business, can dramatically decrease labor costs and increase efficiencies.
While there is a cost to implementing new systems, savings will be realized in terms of water, fertilizers, labor and dry goods.
Multispectral, thermal infrared and traditional digital cameras mounted on drones capture large areas in a fraction of the time it would take to manually review the vineyard. These images are evaluated to inform decisions regarding irrigation and fertilizer application.
Software can also be used to drive down costs associated with dry goods. Better inventory, visibility and control, coupled with better ability to predict wine yields enables better planning to avoid costly, last-minute purchases.
3. Improve consistency in processes and minimize work associated with repeatable, multistep winemaking operations.
Countless hours can be spent writing up wine-making orders to direct work in the cellar. Typically, many of these processes are simple, repeatable, and yet, critical tasks. Software permits replication and tweaking of previously created work orders to free the winemaker’s time for more critical tasks.
Soni Lampert is the principal and CEO of KLH Consulting Inc. in Santa Rosa, and Vintegrate Winery Software.