Robinsons Brewery

Published On: 25th Feb. 2021

Based in the heart of Stockport for almost two centuries, and owning 300 tenanted and managed pubs, inns and hotels across the North West of England, Robinsons Brewery is one of the oldest and most respected names in British brewing history. A proud family of independent brewers, Robinsons is one of the most advanced and sophisticated breweries in the UK, with a worldwide reputation for real ale. Combining original recipe heritage brews with innovative young ales is an award winning formula which has earned Robinsons real ale recognition for almost 180 years.

Business challenge

To improve the forecasting of its business performance and assess new investment opportunities, Robinsons Brewery needed a complete overhaul of its financial planning systems


Robinsons Brewery moved from a world of disparate spreadsheets to a centralized financial planning system, supported by IBM Analytics solutions. Driven and implemented by the company’s finance team, the project enables the brewer to better plan for the future in the fast-moving, competitive drinks and leisure market.

Business Benefits

Accelerates the production of updated budgets within a version controlled environment

Enhances Robinsons ability to accurately forecast the performance of the business

Informs Business development decisions, such as new investment opportunities

Business challenge story

Responding to changing customer needs

As consumer tastes change, the UK brewing industry needs to respond more efficiently to what the customer wants. This was one of the challenges facing Robinsons Brewery, one of the oldest and most respected names in British beer brewing history. With headquarters in Stockport near Manchester in the northwest of England, Robinsons owns a large network of pubs, inns and hotels, which it manages either directly or via third-party tenants.

With IBM Planning Analytics, we can produce quarterly forecasts for the next 12, 24, and 36 months. We simply couldn’t do this before.

Martin Attwood, Financial Controller, Robinsons Brewery

Lee Cunliffe, Commercial Accountant at Robinsons, takes up the story: ” We have embarked on an investment program to meet new tastes in the market, which means we need a better way to investigate the financial viability of new product initiatives.

“For example, we might be asked to evaluate the financial projections for a new managed outlet, where factors such as location, type of customer served, and products offered are important considerations. Another example of scenario modeling could be the assessment of the future financial performance of a service contract, where Robinsons has been asked to provide a bottling service for another drinks manufacturer. And in the future, we may also wish to evaluate possible acquisitions to strengthen our business. Underpinning the evaluation of all these types of initiative is the need to have the right financial tools. ”

In addition to this requirement to assess new market opportunities, Robinsons also wanted to overhaul its existing financial systems in two critical areas.
Martin Attwood, Financial Controller, explains: ” Firstly, we needed to streamline our budget process. Our existing system was made up of a number of disparate spreadsheets, making it difficult to consolidate inputs, analyze values, flex drivers or run multiple versions of the budget. Secondly, our Financial Director needed an operational cash flow statement derived from the annual budget, to help us to better manage the business.”

The main success of the project has been to deliver the updated budget process on time, including all the functionality required.

– Lee Cunliffe, Commercial Accountant, Robinsons Brewery

Transformation story

A financial systems overhaul driven by the finance department

Robinsons invited three companies to advise on how they would transform the financial landscape  for the company. Lee Cunliffe continues  the  story: ” We wanted a well-known solution and whilst there were a number of candidates, only one company, ICit, a leading IBM Cognos Business Partner in the UK, offered to run a proof of concept session using Robinsons’ own financial data. The demonstration went well and ICit was chosen as the supplier with the most expertise and dedication. We were also aware that ICit had  won several awards from IBM.”

The implementation was carried out over the next few months, and the new solution, which is based on the IBM Analytics solution, IBM® Cognos® Express, has now been live for more than a year. Lee Cunliffe describes how the project was set up from the start. “It was totally driven by the Finance department. It was a complex project-we have lots of products (including heritage brews and innovative young ales), 300 tenanted and managed properties, and 35 internal departments, and we need to get a forecast at all levels of the business.”

Looking at how it works, Lee Cunliffe continues: “The solution takes data from the organization’s Dynamics system and Revas, a third-party consolidation and reporting tool. Both systems are hosted internally on an SOL server database. The solution is a standard profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow set-up, with the addition of cubes to manage budget entries with respect to sales, investments and payroll. Reporting and inputs are delivered in the most part utilizing Microsoft Excel, although some content is delivered through TM1® Web.”

Commenting on how Robinsons and ICit worked together on the project, Lee Cunliffe adds: “We had two consultants from our partner ICit who worked on­ site. We devoted a lot of time to the project and it was a seamless fit between our finance department and ICit. Taking into account the complexity of the project , the roll-out went extremely well.”

Results story

Taking financial forecasting to a new level

Robinsons now has a centralized financial planning solution, taking inputs from multiple stakeholders, and enabling users to report and analyse budget data within a version-controlled environment.

Lee Cunliffe explains where the company is today: “The main success of the project has been to deliver the updated budget process on time, including all the functionality required.
“IBM Cognos Express has reduced the time taken to deliver our budget. A key activity within the budget is the process of collecting inputs from our Business Development Managers, who are responsible for the budgeting of sales at the company’s public houses. By creating a system where inputs could be made to a central repository, Cognos Express has improved this process, by streamlining the input workflow and providing the ability to create new versions of the budget quickly.”

In addition, Robinsons can now produce a budget cash flow statement-an output that the previous system did not deliver. Furthermore, Robinsons is able to produce an ongoing detailed investment cash flow statement at a project or outlet level.
Martin Attwood adds: “Everything has changed. In the past, the process was problematic, with more than 20 different spreadsheets across 35 departments. It’s no longer just about the requirement to stay current with financial reporting in order to meet legislation needs: we are also now able to produce quarterly forecasts for the next 12, 24 and 36 months, which we simply couldn’t do before. We now have one centralized system and we can see a total profit figure which is 100 percent accurate.” He concludes:

We can now also model different scenarios so that we can provide people in the business with critical financial information to help make informed decisions for the future development of the business.

Martin Attwood, Financial Controller, Robinsons Brewery

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