How to reduce waste in your coffee roastery

Paul Clearfire
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October 12, 2023
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Throughout the coffee value chain, business owners concerned with the efficiency of their operations naturally seek to reduce waste. Efforts to reduce waste in your coffee roastery have obvious financial benefits and can increase value for both customers and employees. 

However, many many owners of independent coffee roasteries may find it challenging to address issues of waste reduction. Particularly when it is alongside dealing with sourcing, shipping, rent, payroll, insurance, marketing, and everything else they have on their plates.

Fortunately, there are seven simple principles for identifying waste that can make significant differences in any coffee roastery. To learn more, I spoke with Juan Matero, owner of Senja Roastery in Norway, and Shawn Steiman of Grok Coffee on the island of O’ahu, Hawaii. 

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Understanding the seven sources of waste

The ‘Seven Sources of Waste’ concept was first introduced by Taiichi Ohno, chief engineer at Toyota. The sources are easy to remember using the acronym “TIMWOOD”, which stands for Transport, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Over-processing, and Defects. 

Transport

This refers to waste incurred not just from shipping, but from any movement of tools, equipment, and inventory further or more frequently than necessary. Transport waste can lead to product damage and defects, unnecessary work, excessive wear and tear, and exhaustion. 

Transport waste is often only thought of on a macro level. For instance, how specialty coffee roasters ship their product overseas or from the roastery to the client. But, benefits can also be reaped on a micro level by organising roasting workflows to minimise product movement on the floor.

Beyond this, coffee roasters can move their green bean storage closer to the roasting equipment, and bring frequent collaborators closer together in the office. 

Inventory

Inventory waste stems from having more inventory on hand than is needed for sustainable workflow. This also leads to product damage and defects, spoilage, increased lead times, and can conceal production flaws. Storage of excess inventory can also lead to an inefficient use of capital. 

Optimising inventory for a coffee roastery can be a tricky balancing act, particularly if you are conscious of your carbon footprint. In an ideal case, coffee roasters reduce inventory waste by generating just enough roasted beans to meet customer demand. 

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Motion

Whereas transportation waste stems primarily from the movement of materials, motion focuses on the ergonomics of people and the efficiencies of machines in motion. Motion waste happens in any repetitive or excessive motion that does not add value. 

Some examples of how coffee roasters can reduce motion waste include locating tools and supplies within easy reach of workstations and providing for easy movement of pallets through all stages of processing. More so, coffee roasters can ensure loading docks are at the height of their delivery trucks and eliminate double or triple handling of goods at all stages.

Waiting

Waste from waiting occurs when people or machines are idle, waiting for the materials, tools, or information needed to do their jobs. “Waiting” waste happens whenever supplies or products are not being processed. Eliminating waiting waste is a key factor in creating “just in time” or “lean” processing – where products arrive exactly when they are needed. 

Overproduction

If lean production creates goods “just in time”, overproduction is caused by producing goods “just in case”. Generally, overproduction refers to making more products than needed and contributes to excessive storage costs, overconsumption of raw materials, and spoilage. 

Overproduction can also happen administratively. For instance, when coffee roasters produce reports they don’t need, or processes with unnecessary approval steps.

Keys to preventing overproduction include understanding customers and roasting appropriate batch sizes. Beyond this, it includes purchasing the appropriately sized roaster for batch sizes and timing batches to meet demand. 

Over-processing

Over-processing occurs whenever a process does not add value. Some classic sources of over-processing include the use of machines with greater precision or greater capacity than necessary. Additionally, it includes the use of unnecessary forms or double entries, over-detailed reporting, and product features customers do not need. 

Excessive product packaging is a good example of over-processing. By reducing packaging materials and sourcing reusable packaging, specialty coffee roasters can minimise costs and simplify packaging and shipping needs. In turn, this increases value for environmentally conscious customers. 

Defects

Defective products are undesirable or unusable. Additionally, they correlate to wasted energy and materials and can have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line, reputation, and environmental footprint. 

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Creative solutions to reduce waste in your coffee roastery

Specialty coffee roasteries, large and small, will often share certain inevitable waste streams. Juan Matero, the owner of Senja Roastery, a micro-roaster located in the small town of Stonglandseidet, Norway, knows this very well. 

“We have a full idea of what this business means beyond the pure moment of roasting,” he says. “Everything that happens before and after shapes what we do. Roasting is a key part of what we do, but we see it as a small part of what we are part of.”

Senja Roastery translates this awareness into a commitment to direct partnership with a single grower. “We chose that farm because it is the first carbon-neutral farm that we knew about. This creates a better business for them. It’s both socially sustainable and economically sustainable for the coffee farmer.”

By partnering closely with a single farmer, the brand is able to streamline its sourcing and shipping processes. “We only ship once per year”, Juan explains. “We are taking a risk nobody else [in Norway] is taking: reducing our supplier to a minimum. But, it is for the best in terms of sustainability.”  

Beyond this, Senja Roastery has reduced its post-product packaging with the support of the local community. “Everybody is willing to help us reduce waste, and eliminate the packaging as much as possible,” Juan says. “Hotels and hotel cafeterias are really helping. Many accept deliveries in 5-kilo or 10-kilo reusable boxes. 

“When they’ve used the coffee, we return with a new box, wash it in an industrial kitchen beside the roastery, and reuse it.” The brand also sells its primary product in fully recyclable coffee bags, reducing waste and adding value for customers. 

Shawn Steiman of Grok Coffee has a similar experience. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he was forced to close regular operations and decided to switch to a delivery service. 

However, he admits the idea of using plastic broke his heart. “I had this new company and wanted to do things differently. I kept wondering how to solve this problem of less waste and less plastic.” 

His solution: infinitely recyclable glass mason jars with one-way valves built into the lids. Like Juan, Shawn exchanges empty jars for full ones that have been sanitised at a nearby industrial kitchen. And just as in Norway, his customers on O’ahu love the system and love to support his efforts to reduce waste. “This is a better way of doing things, for all kinds of reasons,” he says. 

At MTPak Coffee, our coffee packaging solutions offer high-barrier protection, while being made from biodegradable, compostable, and recyclable materials that will help reduce your carbon footprint. Our line of coffee packaging options is made from renewable materials, such as compostable kraft paper, and rice paper, as well as multilayer LDPE coffee bags with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy. 

Article body images from Senja Roastery and Grok Coffee.

For more information on sustainable, low-carbon coffee packaging, contact our team. 

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