Costa Rica Recap

The supply chain is a process vital to our way of life. The opportunity to analyze it in relation to coffee, bananas, and pineapples over the past two weeks was incredibly interesting. Each step along the supply chain relates to design, the topic that my group got to analyze this trip.

Focusing on coffee, the first step of the supply chain, farming, incorporates design in the physical layout of the farm. On all of the farms that we got to tour, there were different designs put in place to help protect the crops and increase output. Examples of these include other plants to distract bugs from the coffee and rows of trees to lessen the effect of wind on the crops. I found this very intriguing because I did not expect this much thought to be put into the layout of an actual coffee farm.

The second step of the coffee supply chain, processing mills/exportation, utilized a very well designed process. This process is used to sort the coffee beens – discarding those of a lower quality and retaining those of a higher quality. The system includes float tests (which separate the beans based on density) and machines (which help to remove outer layers of skin from the coffee beans). Overall, I was surprised to see the complexity involved in obtaining a coffee bean and now realize that the design of this process makes coffee production viable on a large scale.

The third step of the coffee supply chain is roasting the coffee and selling it in stores and cafes. This part of the supply process is incredibly dependent on design. Once the coffee is roasted and packaged, the company selling the coffee has to figure out the best way to market the product. We saw various marketing approaches on the different coffee tours, but a commonality between them was the idea of quality. Costa Rica prides itself on the quality, not quantity, of the coffee it exports. With that in mind, many companies market their product as high-end, appealing to customers in the gourmet market. I found the different marketing techniques to be fascinating and I did not expect the marketing of such a common product to be this in-depth.

The fourth and final step in the coffee supply chain is the customer. Ultimately, the customer has the largest impact on the design because they are the target for the product. Therefore, companies work very hard to design a product that the customer feels connected to, comfortable with, and drawn towards. If companies are able to build this type of relationship with a customer, they are likely to sell their products more effectively and build a stronger business. This information was new as I did not realize the amount of consumer input and interest that factored into the design of a product.

To conclude, I have enjoyed the chance to analyze the supply chains of coffee and tropical agriculture in Costa Rica. I learned a lot about the processes and specifically the way that design contributes to each step along the way. I look forward to bringing this knowledge home and applying it to other industries going forward!

Leave a Reply