What we learned at the 2016 National Beer Wholesalers Association convention

Every year the NBWA—National Beer Wholesalers Association—holds a convention celebrating the beer industry, beer distributors, and beer lovers alike. This year was no different, and Encompass was on the scene to bring back some of the newest thoughts, concepts, ideas, and technology surrounding beer distribution. Whether you’re part of a craft brewery looking to do self-distribution, or you’re distributing domestic, craft, and/or import beer brands whose long-standing systems are starting to strain at thousands of SKUs, let’s unpack some of the key notes from the conference and see what the future may look like for you and your distributorship.

NBWA President and CEO Craig Purser kicked the convention off with an emphatic speech on disruption, showing how often it tends to rear it’s ugly head in our day-to-day lives. Highlighting scenarios scaling from larger global economic issues to smaller warehouse productivity problems, he quickly brought to everyone’s attention how disruption can be seen in every system. As a crowd of heads begandrooping, Purser quickly turned things around reminding us that “…with disruption comes opportunity.”

In fact, this past year hasn’t only seen an increase in American sales and brewers alike (thanks to the famed American three-tier system), but a craft beer revolution that’s spawned directly from the sort of disruption Purser spoke about. Besides creating some unbelievably mouth-watering ales, craft breweries have once againhighlighted why the independent distribution system works so well. New brewerieshave the opportunity to get their beers out to the public, and the consumers get a chance to enjoy beers from global and local industry. According to Purser, “…the U.S. is enjoying a new Golden Age for beer with unprecedented variety offered by more than 4,000 brewers.”

As the beer industry thrives and disruption continues to wreak its havoc, the need for better business systems takes center stage. Craft
breweries are being introduced to the three-tier system and industry conglomerates are looking to decrease the disruption in some of their legacy processes. This is where the latest and greatest technologies for beer distribution software, like cloud-based route accounting software (RAS)warehouse management software (WMS), and mobile sales execution apps, are taking over and making business more efficient.


The Future is Now: Some Simple Ways to Immediately Improve Performance

Our team heard so many similar sentiments at this year’s conference. Statements like “We have some existing software and systems that do the job, but we’re usinga bunch of different vendors to get it done,” or “Yeah, we have our systems in place, but only one person can run reports and we’d like to give our team more tools to win in the trade” were par for the course. It’s understandable too. Since the American three-tier system of beer distribution and the NBWA came into effect in 1938 (after prohibition ended), things in the industry have changed tenfold.

Furthermore, the last decade in technology has expanded exponentially, leaving us with smartphones we can talk to and “the cloud” storing almost all of our information. Last year Encompass created a great new information resource for craft breweries and distributors alike called DSDLink.com. It’s a massive list of distributors, their territories, and brands that was designed to help connect breweries with distributors across the US and Canada! DSDLink helps the breweries build new contacts and the distributors edit their information for better visibility. This optimizes theircontent for search engines and creates one more way to be quickly found in the vast space of the Internet. Integrating a free online source like this (or any of the new technologies out there for that matter) gives everyone streamlined access to the piles of previously locked up data.

As reporting becomes more readily available, the demand for data also increases. This year’s NBWA conference didn’t just help shed a bright light on the newest software and hardware advancements, but also gave us a peek into how communication is changing. It can be so challenging when 20 different suppliers are asking for trackers or reports and you’ve already got 10 other things to do. Since keeping good communication with suppliers is paramount, having the ability to now publish reports and send links straight to sales reps, deliverypeople, or merchandisers’ smartphones via text message is a great way to keep in contact. A lot of the times though, these links can lead to confusing web browser portals or very un-mobile-friendly reports, leaving eyes strained and a desire for more. Leading all-in-one RAS and WMS cloud-based software companies are now battling these types of disruption by giving people the ability to drill-down on reports and review them straight from a mobile app. Having things like sell sheets, retailer business reviews, and on-the-spot market analyses provide an effortless, natural way for the salesperson to tell the selling story.


Encompassing Our Thoughts

This year’s NBWA conference blew us away. Darin, George, Jake, Kent, Kreston, and Larsson came back with high hopes, stronger relationships, and some remedies to today’s biggest issues. From Purser’s comments on disruption, to our solutions, we would like to thank everyone who stopped by and chatted with our team.

Whether you pontificated on the future, shared some of your current challenges with us, or just let us know how happy you were with our partnership, thanks for stopping by!  Help usher your company into the Golden Age of beer with better sales execution, logistics, operations, and reporting tools built by Encompass. In the meantime, head over to DSDLink.com and update your profile.

Together we can turn disruption into opportunity!