2012

Time to reflect, and plan for the next 10 years

Cablevey-Conveyors-logoI was talking to the guys the other day and we realized that the first coffee show we went to, as Cablevey was getting interest from coffee roasters, was the SCAA event in Boston in 2003. We had sold systems to roasters and it seemed there was more business to be had.

In 10 years a lot has happened with conveying in the coffee world.

Much has been learned over the decade. We have collectively learned about whole bean, decaf, organic, ground, flavored, de-gassing, nitrous-flushing, breakage, the hardness of green coffee, the fragility of decafe and how coffee affects conveyors at an angle, when it hits a sweep, when and where it lands, and how it is affected when it moves too far and too fast.

12_12 32-BHere is what we know, at the least, about coffee roasters: They know a lot more than just roasting. They have gained much knowledge and perspective over the years in terms of best practices—not only for roasting equipment but all the ancillary stuff. They are well informed and capable of making good decisions, which can save sales people from having to stress obvious points. They know the pros and cons of vacuums, pneumatics, augers and buckets. They also know what are tubular drag conveyors and the difference between a cable system and a chain system. They know that speed kills roasted coffee. It has been seen time and again when conveying systems are poorly matched to the needs of roasters. Most often, their questions assume a degree of thought, exposure, experience and thoroughness.

What about the next 10 years? How do you turn the first 10 years into the next 10 years? Through relationships? Better equipment solutions? Pricing? All of the above?

12_12 32-CLooking ahead to the next 10 years involves taking stock, digging deeper, being more specific, getting better at conveying gently with less breakage and minimal system downtime, building conveyors that take into consideration the daily activities of the plant personnel. Ideally, offering value that is often overlooked because everything might seem to be going well.

Being a small company, our operating axiom is that we are flexible enough to address issues and make changes fairly quickly—and that holds true for most small companies. Being owner-operated, it is unlikely that we will not be responsive. And that’s a good thing for our customers! We’re grateful for the attention and the orders. We remain humbled about how many roasters have trusted us and have embraced the concept of gentle conveyance.

The next 10 years can be a plan to make improvements to equipment and approach (i.e., sales, marketing and management), to progressively address past and current issues in a knowledgeable way. In the next 10 years it is imperative to have already heard the primary concerns of customers and to be prepared to come to market with solutions that anticipate their needs. For example, in 2003 we didn’t have a 6” system. Our capacity and our ability to serve the needs of roasters evolved from 2” to 4” to 6” over the previous 10 years, nicely handling the needs of some of the biggest specialty roasters. This may have worked for coffee, but both coffee and other industries need greater capacity to decide what our next best move is to serve the needs of our most likely target market.

Being specific is good, but quality improvement–getting better at each aspect of business—must be part of the plan. In other words, better marketing, sales, manufacturing processes, inventory and personnel management and training all must be figured into the equation.

It’s a funny thing too, because with all this self-reflection and plans for improvement one hardly has time to think about the competition and what changes they’ll bring to the market. We can probably learn a few things from them as well. In other words, it’s good to be aware of “the competition,” but it does not serve your business to worry about what they are doing.

The 10-year question could be summarized as such:

1-    Listen and be responsive and help solve customers’ issues.
2-    Be specific and improve each aspect of your offerings.
3-    Look internally and improve personnel and business processes.

Listen. Be specific. Look within.

In any case these are just my perspectives and definitely not representative of everyone in the conveying industry. What are your thoughts about the next 10 years? Do you have a vision that defines the future of your business?

Here’s to the next 10!

12_12 32-DKarl Seidel works for Cablevey Conveyors as Marketing Manager and enjoys roasting a good Yirgacheffe on his Probatino.

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