New Belgium Brewery (NBB) is a leading U.S. independent, employee-owned craft beer company. As part of a national expansion, including construction of a new brew facility in Ashville, N.C., NBB deployed a KnowledgeLake ECM solution on top of Microsoft SharePoint to dramatically cut down on paper documents and streamline critical business processes in its finance and accounting, HR, legal, and health and safety departments.
In the past few decades, American craft breweries—independent operations that create unique and richly flavored beverages—have become immensely popular. New Belgium Brewery is one of the originals. Founded in 1991, the Fort Collins, Colorado based New Belgium Brewery (NBB) has grown into the fourth-largest brewer of craft beer and the eighth-largest brewery in the United States. It sells in 38 states, the District of Columbia, and British Columbia, annually producing more than 950,000 barrels of top-selling brews such Fat Tire, Ranger IPA, Trippel, and Hoppy Blonde.
The success of the company led it to open a new brew location in Asheville, North Carolina so it can better serve customers in the eastern half of the United States. While the new facility is going to help the company grow its business even more, it also posed internal challenges, particularly around some of its business processes.
“With a new brewery facility coming online in Asheville, NBB is going to become a national company,” says Tye Eyden, collaboration analyst at the company’s Colorado headquarters. “That meant we had to reevaluate processes involving a variety of departments, including finance and accounting, HR, legal, and environmental health and safety.”
NBB had used versions of Microsoft’s SharePoint technology since 2008 for collaboration and for a limited amount of management of unstructured documents. But the company traditionally relied on paper documents and manual processes for storing and managing them.
“It never seemed wise for us to store and handle all this paper in such a manual way, but we’ve always had so many projects and growth going on that we never had the opportunity to make the change,” says Eyden. “With the new facility underway, though, we didn’t want to maintain these legacy processes. We had to solve the paper dilemma to better manage the company as an enterprise operation.”
Eyden says the company saw the importance of an enterprise content management (ECM) solution that could fulfill its current needs while supporting the company’s evolution and growth.
“We had already invested in SharePoint and didn’t want to spend time and invest in any ECM solution that would force us to expand our business applications or learn new tools,” he says. “We selected KnowledgeLake because it works with the tools we already knew and managed.”
Eyden says the deployment of the KnowledgeLake solution was relatively smooth due to the familiarity of the tools. However, the company took advantage of training at KnowledgeLake headquarters as well as onsite sessions at NBB offices in Fort Collins.
“We also knew that for the implementation to succeed, we needed to treat KnowledgeLake like other business applications by understanding and documenting processes, defining the deployment project, conducting assessments, and assigning subject matter experts to provide ongoing support and training,” Eyden says.
Deploying the KnowledgeLake products on top of the existing SharePoint technology has created greater workflow efficiencies, it has cut paper use and improved environmental sustainability, and is opening opportunities for new business processes.
Eyden says the new KnowledgeLake ECM solution will bring enormous efficiencies to essential business processes.
“Once I was sitting in the copy area of an office space, talking with a coworker as she went through filing cabinets and storage boxes looking for documents needed for a tax project,” says Eyden.
“Our employees were spending so much time every month searching through stacks of paper documents. As an analyst, I’m always striving to connect different parts of the business, increase efficiencies, and not just take a business problem and solve it differently but to make the process better. With the rapid access to documents provided by KnowledgeLake, we can actually spend time and resources on improving and making our processes better than what they were before.”
LESS PAPER, GREATER ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
NBB still has to work with paper, particularly when it comes from external partners and customers in the form of invoices, checks, and other paper documents. But the KnowledgeLake solution helped dramatically reduce paper generation and consumption.
“We can’t completely prevent the paper that is sent to us, but with the KnowledgeLake solution, we have a huge benefit in cutting back on our own paper generation,” says Eyden. “We estimate that we’ve cut our paper usage in finance and accounting by at least 80 percent. Eventually, KnowledgeLake will also let us cut our physical storage costs and space almost completely. This will result not only in helping us save money and repurpose our commercial space, it will also deliver an excellent reduction in waste for a lower long-term environment impact. We think there’s a huge benefit in saving trees.”
SUPPORTING NEW PROCESSES
Eyden says the training provided by KnowledgeLake made him aware of new possibilities for exploiting the solution’s ECM capabilities.
“The training really opened my eyes to the functionality and what the combination of the KnowledgeLake products and SharePoint could potentially help us with in the future, beyond our original project,” he says.
“I can see opportunities for us to take more advantage of Advanced Capture and the optical character recognition tools for future document management purposes at New Belgium. For example, using digital solutions at our distribution centers so bill of ladings are on electronic forms, allowing them to be signed digitally rather than having drivers sign papers and then shipping them back to be scanned into SharePoint. We hope to continue our growth as an employee owned company, and this technology will be a real benefit for improving future processes.”