Posted by Tony Kontzer, Guest Blogger

It's probably not a surprise that when Free Flow Wines went to look for an application that would enable it to track its signature wine kegs, it came up empty handed. In fact, Free Flow Wines couldn't find a decent product that could track any kind of returnable asset.

Not even NetSuite, which the Napa, Calif.-based company relies on to manage the delivery, returns, cleaning and reuse of its 85,000 kegs, had a module that could perform that task. And, as CEO Jordan Kivelstadt told a roomful of attendees at NetSuite's SuiteWorld conference in San Jose, Calif., "NetSuite wasn't building one any time soon."

Undaunted, Kivelstadt was determined to find a solution, and it's easy to understand why. As a wine industry innovator that's grown 850 percent over the past four years, Free Flow Wines, is pioneering the use of kegs to store and pour wine. According to Kivelstadt, 70 percent of the carbon footprint in the wine industry comes from packaging, and putting wine in kegs rather than bottles cuts that footprint by an incredible 96 percent. In other words, a single keg can, during its life, prevent the disposal of thousands of bottles, an environmental consideration that's a big part of Free Flow's value proposition. It also changes the way customers interact with wine, suddenly opening up the option for restaurants to provide tastes of premium wines they previously would have only sold by the bottle.

As a result, Free Flow Wines expects to have a lot more kegs in the future and those kegs can provide a lot of information as they progress through their lifecycle, information to which Free Flow previously had no access.

"It was important to know where every keg goes, who we bill and for what, and what we can learn once from that keg when it comes home," Kivelstadt said. "We didn't just want to know about a keg today. We wanted to know its whole history."

What's more, he saw absolutely no reason to wait for an off-the-shelf solution, since doing so would only make the issue tougher to tackle once that time came.

"I don't care if we have 100,000 kegs or a million kegs," Kivelstadt said. "I won't want to change systems halfway through."

It's easy to see why Kivelstadt wanted to track the company's kegs. Knowing how long kegs sit, how quickly they sell and empty allows Free Flow to optimize its business by ensuring that its distributors have the right numbers of kegs and the right assortment of wines in them.

Ultimately, Free Flow Wines decided that Oz Development's OzLINK NetSuite integration tool was the answer. The software makes it possible for Free Flow Wines to populate its NetSuite environment with data pulled from bar codes on the kegs, but the effort didn't end there. Free Flow Wines and Oz worked together to essentially create a separate, query-able database inside NetSuite that contains custom keg records. Now, Kivelstadt and his team can quickly see what customer has a keg, the wine in it, when it was delivered, and most importantly model when it will come home.

"Our ability to do that deep dive keg data is the result of this piece we built," said Kivelstadt. "I won't say it was easy, but today it's a pretty incredible and powerful tool."