It's a corporate nightmare: a tainted product and potential recall. At Korbel Champagne Cellars, a Sonoma County, Calif.-based winery founded in 1882, CIO Robert Barnes has been preparing for the worst-case scenario: bioterrorism in one of the company's bottles.
When the Food and Drug Administration proposed that food and beverage makers must be able to trace all the ingredients in a product within 24 hours, as part of the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, Korbel ran a fire drill. Pulling all the information together took well over 24 hours -- and took a lot of personnel off other jobs, even though Korbel had all the data in an (aging) Wine Production System (WiPS). It included information on such aspects of winemaking as where the glass, cork and grapes came from, what casks the wine had been stored in, the kind of yeast that had been used.
"The industry is highly regulated," Barnes says. "We have to monitor everything in that bottle. We had all the data, but it would take us a couple of days."
Across the sector, wineries struggle with the same compliance problems.
"It's a terrible headache for the industry," notes Mack Schwing, a former consultant at Deloitte & Touche and now director of the Wine Business Program at Sonoma State University. "The FDA says a winery has to have that information available within hours. The wine industry has never had to deal with the FDA before."
Besides complying with the 2002 Bioterrorism Act, Barnes also had his hands full trying to revamp the company's core technology. Korbel was struggling with a troublesome enterprise resource planning (ERP) deployment and an error-prone business intelligence (BI) system.
To meet the new federal requirements, which took effect this year, Barnes realized that the winery needed to upgrade its WiPS, made by Indianapolis-based eSkye Solutions Inc. Once the new WiPS system, which included software designed to make collecting and reporting compliance data easier, was in place, the bottle-tracking fire drills became dramatically faster, making compliance a snap.
"Now we can do it in hours," Barnes says. "Our goal is to get the information faster and faster. Making sure we're totally compliant is a big challenge. The problem with compliance is that an edict comes out and there isn't really anything that tells you what you have to do to be compliant. It's a work in process. It takes up an awful lot of my time."
This was first published in October 2007