Fibre in Focus – Hobsons Brewery
It’s a crisp and sunny spring morning as we pull up in Cleobury Mortimer, home to Hobsons Brewery. A local favourite down many Shropshire pubs, Hobsons have recently taken up the opportunity to upgrade to fibre broadband after the local cabinet was fibre- enabled as part of the Connecting Shropshire programme.
We met with their Commercial Director, Reuben Crouch, to see how they had found the switch in the early days: “The biggest difference was the speed of uploading data,” Reuben explained shortly after meeting. “We’re seeing speeds pushing 40 mbps now on the downloads, but the upload speed has been really dramatic – it’s gone up from 0.5 to about 8 mbps, which has been a revelation. The issues weren’t stopping us working – but what they were doing was really slowing us down.”
Pausing for thought, he continued: “For example, the way we did our accounts was that we’d upload the data to a secure server for the accountants to then download. But the upload was mind-numbingly slow and it would tie up the computer for the entire day and slow up the other computers on the network as well. So the quicker that job can be done the better.”
Showing us round the Hobsons home, Reuben began to further unpick the impact the upgrade had on the business. Leading us into the area where their beers are casked, he continued: “An interesting thing about the brewing industry is that every time you send out a cask of beer, there is more value in the cask than there is in the beer itself. So you really need to keep a reliable track of where those casks are going because you don’t want to be losing them. Because none of the software we had to do that was working that well, we’re in the process of developing a cloud-based storage database – where we scan a cask using our phones and then upload that information to the cloud. The fact that we’ve now got the superfast broadband means that’s almost instantaneous, whereas before it was constantly lagging and really slowing the process down.”
The more Reuben explains about the business and where they are going, a theme begins to emerge: one of efficiency and ambition – “We’ve been doing a lot of export recently, something that we’re really pursuing as a business, and we’ve got a new website being designed and a series of country-specific sites in development – and that again involves uploading an awful lot of data – so that takes up a lot of bandwidth and a fast connection means it’s a much quicker process.”
Once more he pauses for thought, before beginning to sum up what all the small and subtle changes meant for Hobsons. “Ultimately what it’s allowed us to do is free up time, and our staff have become more efficient as a result [of the faster speeds] because they can finish the job quicker and move onto something else. The more efficient the workforce is, the more you can deliver without increasing your business costs, and as a result you can be a lot more ambitious and achieve a lot more in your time.”
At this point, another member of the Hobsons team pops out to where we’re sat in the sunshine to let Reuben know that a major UK retailer is on the phone – the timing, to illustrate the ambitions of the business, couldn’t have been better. Apologising, Reuben nips inside to take the call, leaving me to wander round the site. It’s certainly not in a buzzing metropolis, with the views of green fields and the small countryside town down the hillside.
The Connecting Shropshire rollout enabled the local cabinet to Hobsons early this year, with the business receiving the service in early February at a lower cost than their previous package. In that time, the company has seen the benefits it can bring, contributing to them being able to push forward with more ambitious plans for the year ahead. Efficiency has always been part of their philosophy, with the company placing an emphasis on making the best use of sustainable and recyclable energy sources, and the upgrade to fibre broadband has allowed this ethos of maximising resources to further flourish in the wider running of the company.
With time now running short, Reuben returns to quickly sum up the overall effect the service has had on the business.
“If we didn’t have the fibre broadband we’d have had two options: we would’ve either had to employ additional labour in order to achieve all the things we wanted to achieve, or we would’ve had to make sacrifices on goals. It’s like everything else, you prioritise what needs doing – so our priorities would get done, but the other things that are really pushing us now probably wouldn’t.”
With this to reflect on, we take up the offer to check back towards the end of summer 2015 to see how things have progressed as the new service becomes established in the company routine. Already, Reuben has shed light on how the simple things have really assisted this successful, if relatively small, local business to pursue more ambitious goals and further their success.