Over the last half-century, Clonakilla’s 40 acres of world-class Shiraz, Riesling and Viognier vines have produced wines that have collected accolades and outstanding commendations. And yet, Clonakilla still sells to businesses and the public directly from their cellar door, rather than via distributors – which has created unique demands on administration, resourcing, and inventory management.
Clonakilla are a formidable force in Canberra, helping to establish the region as a wine-producing champion in the 1970s. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s when they introduced their signature wine: the Shiraz Viognier, which would soon be collecting serious accolades.
But even as Clonakilla grew in influence and Tim Kirk took over the family business they’ve maintained their focus on the domestic market and their own distribution. Clonakilla take care of all of their own distribution across Australia – something rare for vintners of any size.
As David explains, “The wines used to be hand carried around to various retailers and restaurants. Tim did this himself with a backpack on his back, popping into Sydney restaurants here and there, trying to convince people that Canberra District could actually make a decent wine.”
As David explains, “In my mind, I had a diagram – two, three inputs, and a central hub to control everything. But I couldn’t get it to happen. So we just had to keep working, shipping our products out. And being the size of business we are and were, I didn’t have a department to go to and say, ‘Can you just fix all this and build something for me?’”
High on the priority list was features that could handle wine equalization tax (WET, for short.) 15 years ago, it took specialized software and programmers to include this sort of feature – “but even then, it didn’t show on invoices,” adds David.
“I kept saying, ‘Look, we need this.’ It was slow.”
Eventually David and Clonakilla discovered TradeGecko for their back-end inventory, and used Vend for their POS. This solved many of their problems – but the joy was short-lived.
“We had issues integrating with our cellar door, so our point of sale stuff never worked. The tax thing was problematic. But we had these pieces. We got online; we had a lovely website that linked into TradeGecko, and got onto Xero.” But it was only two-thirds of the whole; they couldn’t control the stock going in, other than directly putting it into Vend. It may have been jury-rigged, but it was working.
Then TradeGecko announced they were shutting down.
David had a good working relationship with TradeGecko, so he was able to reach out to his contact in Singapore for a recommendation. Clonakilla needed an ERP and implementers who understood WET and the wine industry.
“He texted me back almost immediately, and put me on to Jeffrey Atizado at SMB Consultants.”
Wine and WET are Jeffrey’s mainstays – and of course, everything else ERP would be handled by SMB Consultants as well. With a twelve-month window in which to migrate to a new system, Clonakilla and SMB Consultants got to work.
Jeffrey’s recommendation was to utilize Cin7’s multi-channel inventory management system, Cin7 Omni. With built-in EDI and integrations to all the popular ecommerce platforms, marketplaces, and 3PLs, Cin7 Omni is a best-in-class platform for all combinations of B2B and D2C sales channels, warehouses, shipping, and fulfillment.
David wasn’t enthusiastic about implementing another solution himself, but knew that investing in solid technical support and advice was paramount to this project’s success.
“We can make all the wine we want, but it’s got to get out of the warehouse and into people’s hands. And because we’re doing everything ourselves, I needed systems that would work – and I needed help in understanding what we could use now. That’s what led us to Cin7, and SMB Consultants – and it was the best decision and the best spend that we’ve done as far as our systems go.”
The Cin7-powered solution means Clonakilla enjoys full integration: the cellar door, the point of sale, and trade and online purchases are all connected to a centralized stock program.
“It’s all managed in one place now. And that’s a first, believe it or not, in 50 years of this business. We’re a wine business, not an inventory management company – our focus is on making great wine and getting it out there, so the more we can do that, the better off we are.”
Deepak Stevens is a Sales Implementation Engineer with SMB Consultants, and his experience has been an important factor in this project’s success.
Deepak explains that TradeGecko’s shortcomings – not being able to handle different WET calculations, among other factors – had been limiting its applicability. It also meant that Clonakilla were presenting their invoices a certain way to wholesale customers, and keeping that formatting was going to save a lot of headaches.
“We manage to carry over that system in Cin7, but include WET calculations for both retail and wholesale, and display the format of the invoice in the same way. That’s a pretty big deal, because the majority of the orders coming through are wholesale. Now it pushes through to Xero.”
Deepak adds, “Reporting-wise, we were able to give Clonakilla a clear breakdown between the retail and wholesale sides of the business: now they can see what each one is doing, and also look at the WET tax on both sides. They are able to get a good, clear understanding of the difference between the two. And then David can run a report right now and tell you what they're tracking for the month or for the last quarter – something that’s really helpful for his accountant. Cin7 gets those details.”
Another goal has been achieved in the process too: automatic shipping labels. For many, many years, Clonakilla team members had to manually input every order into the eParcel system tied into Starshipit. Now, the system automatically generates labels from a label printing machine and provides tracking details.
“We’ve got all this integration that communicates shipping with our customers,” notes David. “That’s a major component. When we do a big wine release, we get maybe 300 orders a day. To be able to process that with ease has saved us the most in actual physical working hours. It’s worked really well.”
This is the system that David had been striving for. So to actually have it happening now, and see exactly what’s coming through each sales channel, has been “a revolution for us, really.”
David’s been thrilled so far with the results of Clonakilla’s transition to a Cin7-powered software stack at the hands of SMB Consultants.
“I really have to say it’s been fantastic,” he says. “I went overseas for a couple of months – and to know that my people here are in excellent hands, and I can contact SMB Consultants and get very quick responses, is amazing. SMB Consultants have been able to do some customization that we needed, and have been really open to it too, because it’s going to help us.”
With less need to micromanage the systems, David and the Clonakilla team can focus on doing what they do best: crafting stunning wines with confidence, knowing that their operations are taken care of. Jeffrey adds that this is “reflective of knowing what’s best to implement, and knowing how to implement the right workflow, to leverage the benefits of an integration.”