Today we visited Veritas, a small private university that focuses on design and architecture. I was shocked by how modern the university’s technology is, as they have 3D printers, Macs, and laser cutting machines.
Automation is a very popular trend in many industries worldwide. In the coffee industry, the packaging process has become more automated, as machines do a majority of the work. However, there are still parts of the process that can be automated even further. For example, at Café Britt I saw a man putting stickers on each package, but the machine kept on stalling because he was slower than it. If Café Britt replaced the man with a machine, the system would likely be more efficient. Automation can also be used in storage and transportation to maximize the amount of space available in each truck/ship/airplane. This would involve technology that packs the packages as close as possible, minimizing the amount of useless space.
Drones have the potential to be very beneficial in the coffee industry. First, they can be used in the delivery process. Some international companies have already started using drones to ship small packages, and I think the coffee industry can greatly benefit from this. Drones would allow customers to purchase the specific type of coffee they want and have it dropped off at their doorstep. This would benefit both the customer and supplier because the customers would not have to leave their house to get coffee and sales would increase for suppliers. Also, I think drones can improve this process by allowing workers to locate the parts of the plantation with the best cherries. As I learned from our visits to Doka and Café Britt, the coffee cherries should only be picked when they are red to ensure the best flavor. The drones can fly out in the morning and take pictures of the plantation, and then the workers can analyze the pictures to determine where they can pick the most and best cherries. The addition of drones in this way would improve quantity of coffee and process efficiency.
3D printing is fairly new technology that has produced vast benefits in many different industries, and has potential to help the coffee industry immensely. One instance where 3D printing can be used in the coffee industry is selling. Many coffee companies, including Doka, outsource the production of merchandise such as t-shirts and keychains. These companies do this for a variety of reasons, one of them mostly likely being a cheaper cost. However, 3D printing has the capability of producing key chains and similar products. If these companies had this technology, they could produce these items at a facility nearby, rather than producing them on the other side of the world. I think this would greatly reduce the costs associated with merchandise because it would eliminate the labor and transportation costs. Another time 3D printing can be used is during the production and packaging process. These two processes involve many intricate parts that can break at any point in time. Instead of having to wait for another company to produce the part, the coffee company can print it themselves for a much lower cost. Also, 3D printing can be used to make the packages, which could start off as inefficient because 3D printing is not very fast. However, I think in the future this technology will become faster, and 3D printing the packaging could turn into a good idea.
New technologies can create widespread benefits in the coffee industry. However, there is a time when low-tech, traditional methods is the better option: the drying process of coffee beans. The low-tech, traditional method is to let the beans dry in the sun for approximately a week. A lot of people, including myself, may think this is inefficient, since a machine would be able to dry the beans in less than a day. However, the sun gives the beans more nutrients, leading to a better taste in the final product. So, although automation could be used to dry the beans faster, I think the traditional method of drying the beans in the sun is better because of the better quality.