How to Reduce Inefficiencies in Your Coffee Roastery

May 19, 2023

Do you know what the #1 obstacle to achieving roastery growth is?

It’s not the quality of your coffee.

It’s not the rising cost of supplies (although, that does cause a substantial headache.)

It’s not the sales channels you pursue.

It’s the inefficiencies found throughout your roasting and production workflows. These little inefficiencies throughout a roastery pile up until it becomes one massive roadblock. 

By tackling these inefficiencies, you can clear a path to business growth, new opportunities, and profitability. To do this, we’ll show you:

  • The basics of streamlining roasting and production process for efficiency
  • Why training and retaining skilled staff leads to more efficient operations
  • How implementing quality control measures can prevent inefficiencies

Ready to make your roastery more efficient?

How to Spot Roasting Inefficiencies

As business owners, it’s easy for us to view our companies through rose-colored glasses. We’re doing everything in our power to roast the best-tasting coffee and grow our business… right?

Chances are, you might not be aware of some pretty significant inefficiencies happening throughout your business. To know if a process or task is causing your roastery to operate unproductively, look for these signs:

It takes too much time to complete a simple task.

Does your team take an hour to complete a handful of online orders? Is tracking inventory taking up an entire afternoon? 

If you spend a significant amount of time on a task or process that doesn’t either lead to a return or contribute to growth, it’s an inefficiency.

You can’t focus on what matters.

If your day is spent doing important, but repetitive tasks like inventory, organizing, or putting out metaphorical fires, you can’t focus on what matters most to you: growth. Anything that takes away from your focus may be the result of inefficient processes or a lack of company organization. 

You’ve made costly mistakes.

Late wholesale deliveries. Incorrect coffees sent to an ecommerce customer. Too much or too little green coffee contracted. The remedy to these mistakes comes with a price tag—and was likely caused by inefficiencies within your roastery. Even worse, these costly inefficiencies often lead to customer complaints or lost wholesale clients. 

Your margins are shrinking.

Sure, inflation is hurting us all. But if you find that your profit margins are suddenly getting smaller and smaller, it may be due to an inefficiency in your roastery. The more you spend to continuously fix errors—including those you may not even realize—the faster your margins will disappear.

So, what can you do to remedy these inefficiencies and drive profitability? We’ll show you.

Documenting and Streamlining Production Processes

A roastery requires a multitude of processes to turn green coffee into a roasted product, including:

  • Green coffee sourcing, transportation, and storage
  • Capturing wholesale and online orders
  • Demand planning
  • Roasting and quality control
  • Bagging and order fulfillment
  • Shipping and delivery

Within these sectors of the process are mini-processes, all of which are ripe for inefficiencies. For instance, think of all the processes involved in fulfilling orders:

  • Reviewing the wholesale, ecommerce, and cafe orders for the week
  • Calculating the weight of each green coffee
  • Organizing which coffees, blends, and roast profiles to queue 
  • Weighing out and conveying each green coffee up to the roaster
  • Roasting the coffee according to demand needs and designated roast profiles
  • Blending roasted coffees
  • Packaging and grinding coffee per the details of the day’s orders
  • Storing roasted coffee properly 

And this is only a quick overview! 

If one employee makes a mistake, corners are cut, or a single step takes far too long, you’re actively cutting into profits. This is why documenting and streamlining production processes reduces the possibility of costly redundancies, mistakes, and inefficiencies.

Step 1: Document the Process

First and foremost, your goal should be to expedite these processes. This starts by documenting every step of your existing processes, with information such as:

  • What steps are involved
  • Who is responsible for each step of the process
  • What tools are necessary
  • The process timeline
  • The reason behind the process

Step 2: Review and Identify Issues

Take a look at your documented processes. Do you see anything that can be improved right away? What part of the process causes bottlenecks? 

Seeing a visual breakdown of a process makes it easier to determine where inefficiencies are happening.

Work with your team to identify areas of each process that can be improved. Their input will provide valuable insight into the logistics of each process and what steps can be added or removed for efficiency.

Step 3: Develop and Test a Solution

Once you’ve come up with a proposed solution to streamline a process, document it and put it to the test. 

Ask your team to take notes on how the new process functions. Are they seeing any improvements? Keep in mind, however, that change takes time to get used to. It may be several weeks before you and your team are comfortable with the new processes and see any discernible changes. 

Then, after a few weeks, take a look at the following:

  • Labor costs per roasted pound of coffee
  • The number of orders your team can process accurately and without stress
  • Total number of errors both internally and externally that reach the end user

Are all of these areas improving? If so, you’ll see quantifiable improvements on your Profit & Loss statements over time too.

Step 4: Rinse & Repeat

After a few weeks with the new structure, repeat this process for any necessary adjustments. 

Use this format to spot and rectify inefficiencies throughout your roasting, fulfillment, and administrative processes!

Embrace Automation

Another crucial element of streamlining production and roasting processes is implementing automation.

Automation doesn’t have to mean buying expensive equipment, adding robot baristas, or outsourcing operations. It can be as simple as implementing production planning software or bringing outdated ordering processes online. 

Software like RoasterTools gives roasters an easy-to-use toolkit for accepting ecommerce and wholesale orders, forecasting roasting needs, and managing green inventory. 

Training and Retaining Skilled Staff

Even with the most detailed documentation and best of intentions, a process cannot function if you don’t have the skilled staff to implement it.

A lack of defined training processes leads to inefficiencies across a roastery—which ultimately results in more unnecessary costs. You won’t be able to grow or tackle unproductive areas of your business if you don’t have knowledgeable employees to help you out.

Make a commitment to your team by investing in their training and ongoing professional knowledge. This can include:

  • Providing access to workshops, certification classes, and training sessions
  • Inviting staff to participate in sensory experiences and coffee cuppings
  • Encouraging staff to take charge of a particular area in the roastery
  • Offering educational materials and subscriptions to coffee industry literature 

The more trained your team is—and the more you demonstrate your commitment to retaining their talent—the better optimized your processes will be. When employees feel supported, they’ll care about each product and process involved with your business.

Implement Quality Control Measures

Quality control touches every aspect of a coffee roasting facility. Without it, inefficiencies begin to creep in and take over.

Quality control can include:

  • Using roast profiles to ensure roasting consistency
  • Cupping coffees daily or weekly to analyze flavor characteristics
  • Creating a database for roasting, sales, and production data
  • Adding a “double-check” system for online orders being shipped to customers
  • Developing a standard operating procedure for how bags of coffee should be fulfilled using programs like RoasterTools to ensure staff accountability

The better quality control measures in place throughout your roasting facility, the more efficient your business will be.

Review Administrative Inefficiencies, Too

You didn’t open a coffee roastery because you loved doing payroll, right? You opened a roastery because of your passion for roasting coffee and the desire to share it with others. 

Administrative inefficiencies are areas of your business that rob you of time that can be better spent elsewhere. While you do need to spend time reviewing your P&L sheet, navigating new sales opportunities, and other non-roasting tasks, some processes are better served by automating, outsourcing, or hiring. 

Ask yourself what administrative tasks you’re spending far too much time on each week. 

Is it creating roasting forecast spreadsheets? Invest in demand forecasting software.

Is it balancing the books? Outsource this task to a freelance bookkeeper.

Is it managing employee payroll and benefits? Consider hiring an employee to manage Human Resources responsibilities or using software that can consolidate and streamline the process.

Streamlining administrative processes gives you more time to get back to what you love: roasting coffee and growing your business.

Efficiency Drives Profitability

Identifying and remedying inefficiencies throughout your roastery is the first step to growing a profitable business. But it’s not the only step you can take!

Download our eBook “How to Make More Money from Your Roastery: 6 Strategies for Growth and Profitability” to learn:

  • How to build a profitable coffee product lineup
  • Why selecting the right sales channels is critical to growth
  • How to set product prices that promote profitability, growth, and consumer satisfaction

Download Now

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Jon French of Black Oak Coffee Roasters ❤️RoasterTools
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Using RoasterTools, Jon French estimates saving $1,000 per month at Black Oak Coffee Roasters while supercharging his team for growth☕️+ 💻= 🚀
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Jon French of Black Oak Coffee Roasters ❤️RoasterTools
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