Keeping Everyone’s Coffee Brewing With Operational Data

Knowing when to balance the lines in beverage production eliminates costly downtime

Jim, an engineer at a coffee processor, is sitting at his desk shortly after his 7 a.m. start. It’s a cool Saturday morning in autumn, and Jim is enjoying his own daily dose. The trees, brimming with orange leaves, capture his attention as he takes a long, strong sip from his coffee mug. Just as the steam rises and the aroma of chicory hits his nose, Jim hears an alert on the cell phone in his pocket.

He pulls out his phone, swipes at the notification, and reads the following: “Caution: Storage line full near Extractor.” It’s a problem Jim has faced before. Thanks to operational data, it also doesn’t have to ruin his morning cup of coffee.

Figure 1: This flowchart shows the process for manufacturing instant coffee. Each phase has different cycle times and storage between them to wait for the next phase in production.

Coffee in an Instant

Many of today’s coffee beverages go through a manufacturing process. Some of the phases could include grinding the coffee beans or extracting pure coffee for an infusion of espresso. They also include blending coffee with other flavors to create mixed beverages.

In the making of instant coffee, for example, the manufacturer first starts with a roaster to get the flavor of the beans just right. They then move to a grinder to refine those beans into coarse crystals for the next phase of production. After adding fresh water, coffee is placed through an extractor and then an evaporator to get rid of process waste steam. The concentrated coffee is then dried before it is ready for market. A flowchart of the process is shown in Figure 1.

But what happens when one of the earlier phases finishes its next batch before the later phases have finished theirs? Because the extraction, evaporation, and drying phases have different cycle times, bottlenecks can occur—particularly at the extraction phase—which can lead to unwanted downtime. The way to ensure this will not be an ongoing problem is through line balancing.

Applying Historical Data

Line balancing plays a vital role in increasing production efficiency in the food and beverage industry. By evenly distributing work tasks across production lines, companies can minimize downtime and reduce the risk of bottlenecks. Line balancing ensures that each line operates at its maximum capacity. It also leads to higher production output and improved efficiency.

This used to be an ongoing problem until Jim used advanced industrial analytics software to help him balance the lines. The solution empowers him to review operational data and make changes to ensure optimal production.

Jim looked for periods where the extraction process of a batch was finished before the evaporator phase completed on the previous batch. Using advanced industrial analytics, he was able to visualize the historical state of each line to see the bottlenecks, as shown in Figure 2. Jim then was able to calculate the correct amount of storage needed to ensure the coffee extract would not run out of storage space before the evaporator is finished. He was then able to balance the lines so that the product moved through at a steady pace.

Extractor Management

Figure 2: Jim, an engineer at a coffee processor, used advanced industrial analytics software to review the historical state of each line. From this, he was able to calculate the amount of storage he would need and balance the production lines accordingly.

Setting up the Monitor

After Jim had finished balancing the lines, he set up a monitor on his dashboard within the advanced industrial analytics software. It allowed him to have greater insight into the health of each of the lines. When the lines are not operating efficiently, Jim can see on his dashboard that there is a problem. He also gets an email alert. This lets him know he needs to rebalance the lines.

With the lines balanced, the company has been able to achieve a 5.2% increase in instant coffee production. Now, Jim doesn’t have to worry about downtime before his first caffeine rush of the day kicks in.

A Perfect Blend of Insights

No one likes to have their morning coffee ruined. Thanks to operational data, food and beverage companies can empower local experts with a perfect blend of operational insights. Leveraging operational data helps them to optimize the health of their manufacturing processes, even for instant coffee. And with advanced industrial analytics software, engineers can keep coffee brewing for everyone.

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