On my recent tour of commercial roasters I had fun looking at their manufacturing and warehousing processes. I like warehousing and manufacturing. I don’t work in that industry, but I like all the processes: cool conveyor belts and forklifts and all sorts of activity. Whats not to love? And when its a coffee warehouse, roaster, and manufacturer just about everything I find cool is located in one place.
The roasters i toured were operating on purpose. I’m not sure if they are formally Lean or Six Sigma or some other ‘plan’, but they are operating with thought and purpose behind their activities. Here are some points of Lean, commercial roasting, and how the points may impact home roasting:
- Chaff is recyclable organic material. When I sweep my chaff into the lawn, I’m not being lazy. I’m recycling.
- Lean puts a lot of emphasis on ergonomics. How ergonomic is your roasting set up and can you improve it?
- Blend strategy impacts inventory. You should chose your blend strategy based on flavor, but if you blend before roasting you won’t need to maintain blend stock.
- I’m not blending but it was neat to observe that commercial operators approach blending with different strategies.
- Consistancy. Lean and Six Sigma want to measure and eliminate varation. Roasters measure and track varations in their roast. I wonder if I need to measure and track my finished products.
- I’ve tried to use a roast log but I didn’t really know how I was going to use it. I wonder if I can switch from a roasters log to a tasters type of log. Track the finished level of roast and the finished taste.
- Green storage is interesting. Even if you are buying container loads, greens are transported and stored in 150 lb jute bags. It seems that there are a lot of non-value added steps in this process.
- Disaster plans: Both roasters had contigencies for disasters. My backup plan for beans is to run down to starbucks 🙂