I’ve been chatting with roasters lately about inventory, which we’ve said all along was the next major thing we’d be working on. Turns out that the roasters I’ve spoken with all have a few struggles handling inventory in just they way they’d like. “Affordable” off-the-shelf inventory software just doesn’t work for specialty coffee, and the cash outlay required for a system that can meet the needs of specialty roasters is prohibitive.
Imagine, if you will….
As the head roaster at Roast-O-Rama Coffee Purveyors, which has two roasting facilities, you arrive at work in the morning, login to roastlog.com and see the main inventory page, which shows a graphic that gives you a bird’s eye view of your green coffee inventory for your entire organization:
- what’s in each roastery,
- what you have sitting in your importers’ warehouses,
- the rate at which you are roasting each bean – and therefore a projection of when you’ll run out,
- Cost of Goods Sold – a total figure for your whole organization along with the current COGS for each bean at each location.
Presumably, one of the first tasks of the day is to figure out how much of what to roast and in what order for each of your facilities. First thing, select some beans from your inventory and tell the system the quantity of roasted beans which you’d like to end up with. RoastLog suggests a roast queue for you – it knows your target profiles and the average percent of mass loss. Blends? Let the computer do the tedious math. You adjust and reorder the queue as you need to. Done. When your roasters start their shifts and login to the RoastLogger application, the queue is waiting for them. Every time a roast is logged by your roasters, your inventory is automatically updated…you now have a near real-time view into your coffee inventory.
Next, The Office calls. “How are things going?” they want to know. Since this is a web based application any user on your RoastLog account can login to see what’s going on in inventory. Depending on your role in the organization the inventory system might show you:
- Bean history – from the time you took a position to roasting the last batch, including delivery dates and charges, storage fees and manual adjustments with notes that employees made to the inventory of that bean
- Patterns – see a graphic that shows the rate a bean was roasted last November when you were slammed with orders and could barely keep up. If you expect to be that busy again, plan ahead based on some concrete numbers instead of anxiety-ridden memory
- Look at how inventory changes between 10:00am and 6:00pm, which was your newest roaster’s shift. Did they get everything done? Was timing on target or was something erratic? Get even more detail by having a look at the profiles roasted during that shift.
- Roastery owners, see how your run rate compares to your capacity. Maybe now is the time to start sourcing a new roaster? Maybe a night shift is in order?
- It’s a web-based application – the view of inventory changes with each roast. They day plays out in almost real time on your screen. Can’t walk the floor as often as you’d like? Have a laptop or and iPhone? Check the web site.
But wait, there’s more…
Do physical inventory less often. When a physical inventory is done, enter a simple adjustment with a note for any bean that needs an adjustment. Look at manual adjustments history by bean, time frame or across your entire organization. Does one location make more adjustments than another? Find out why and improve your operation.
Generate reports and use web-based tools that help you with ordering. Go ahead, play a little. Given the position you took in the Guats last year and the rate at which you’re roasting them now, play around with projected sales growth and get comfortable with the position you’ll take next year.
Get help with pricing. Given a really accurate COGS, price things exactly how you need to. Does $20/lb. retail for a micro lot really give you an acceptable margin?
In short, our inventory system will change the way you run your business, having a larger positive impact on your bottom line than anything else out there except perhaps more rabid coffee lovers, and cheers to them. Thoughts? Doubts? Wanna argue? Let’s hear it!