So now I am kind of in a panic because we are starting to reach capacity in the manufacturing operation on an 8 hour shift. Hey, don't get me wrong that is a better problem than being at 50% capacity, believe me. You know you quickly learn, that if your business is growing and you apply yourself, and don't go wild increasing overhead, meaning in this case, adding more people, you will make out alright. So, I grabbed all the manger's and told them we needed to come up with more efficient ways to squeeze out this extra volume without adding people. Sure we were going to have to use more gas, electricity and somewhere in there innovation, but don't reinvent the wheel here. The first thing we did was look at our annual and then even monthly sales by item! It was crazy! We had 24 count cases, 26 count, 28 count, 42,44,46,48,84,96,128 and 160! WHAT! So in production, simplification is perfection. We ended up eliminating over 300 items, because don't forget it wasn't just the number of bags, it was the weight too. We'd have a 24 count 1.75 oz case, a 2 oz case, 2.25 oz all the way up. Crazy right? Well obviously no one was minding the store. Eliminating and consolidation of items in a production facility is huge! The next thing we did was increase the capacity to hold ground coffee, so it can let all of the gasses out before packaging in a nitrogen flushed bag. This is essential, remember this is before the bag with the one way valve was really even around! So you had to grind coffee and store it depending on the grind, which can vary greatly, from let's just say fine to course, from anywhere from 18-24 hours ideally. So that was a huge bottleneck in our operation because at that time we were selling 75% ground coffee. So we had to figure out how to store say, 50,000 lbs of ground coffee a week! That takes up a lot of space. The next thing we had to do was speed up the number of bags we could produce per minute. These were two huge issues.
I analyzed what blends were the biggest movers and it hit me like a seventh wave in the Atlantic! We were mostly doing one blend of ground coffee for 60% of our customer's. So what I did is design A very large de-gassing bin for that blend of coffee and then purchased portable roll around bins for mostly everything else. I had a bin we used that was already there, and planned so that would be my swing bin, for unexpected orders or over runs. So that was pretty much solved. Then we had to increase the output of these twin tube fractional pack machines. Well I can't fix it or tweak it, but I can think it. So I found a guy, or should I say engineer/packaging consultant that figured out how to increase the output from say 48 bags a minute to 68 bags a minute! That is almost a 50% increase. Wow. Here's where experience and intuitiveness takes affect. I thought that was truly great, but who is packing the coffee at a 50% per minute faster rate? Our production line worker's. All I could think of is the famous Lucy show episode, when they were working in the chocolate factory and Ethel and Lucy can't keep up with the speed. So, we did some research and realized that 12 bags more a minute is much more feasible. Think about it though, that is 720 bags more an hour and we had five of those machines! Not bad, but now the only problem was, we increased our capacity, without really spending very much capital, which was great. But now we were again, underutilizing our maximum efficiencies. So we went from almost to 100% capacity, to hey, we can do 30-35% more!This is the thing about manufacturing, if you are not constantly analyzing and tweaking, you are not even close to realizing your maximum efficiencies, which translates to fantastic prophets! Anyway, that's manufacturing 101 for tonight. More to follow! I haven't had one comment, I hope people are enjoying this, I know I am. It sure would be nice to get some input. Like I said I am going to veer off from time to time, but that's life and we are not even really near the real good stuff. But hang in, hopefully you'll be rewarding! Kiss the one you love! Treat people the way you would want to be treated. It is pretty simple people. Joe