How coffee roasters can manage scale

coffee roasters scale

Coffee roasters across the globe are embracing new technology that allows them to scale up while maintaining their customer service and transparency.

People are becoming more aware of the quality and impact their products have on the world around them. In coffee, this has led to a boom in artisan and specialty roasters not just in Australia but Europe, North America, and even Asia. 

One of the companies at the forefront of the specialty coffee movement in the United Kingdom is Volcano Coffee Works, which has seen rapid growth since launching in 2010. Co-founder and Chair Emma Loisel says the roaster and sister company Assembly Coffee have developed strong followings domestically and internationally.

“The UK specialty coffee market has seen high growth as customers transition from drinking commodity coffee to understanding the level of quality specialty coffee can offer,” Emma says. “We’ve been at the forefront of that market shift and 12 months ago, opened in Paris.

“Our success is because we offer outstanding and traceable coffees, hold ethical principles around not just our coffees but how we run our business in an environmentally friendly way, and run a professional operation that invests in supporting our customer base.”

coffee roasters scale
Lisa Miles-Heal is the Chief Operating Officer of Unleashed Software.

With specialty coffee being such a relationship-driven business, Emma says it was critical Volcano Coffee Works didn’t lose its personal connection with its customers as it grew.

“Customer relationships are at the core of what we do. In order to maintain our levels of customer service across more customers, we needed to have technology that helped us grow without simply loading more people into the business,” she says. “That’s where we looked for new systems to support our team while we scaled.”

One such program was Unleashed Software’s inventory management system. Unleashed Software Chief Operating Officer Lisa Miles-Heal says the platform offers solutions for a coffee roaster’s end-to-end business processes.

“We provide digital capabilities against all of the core products and processes we can, starting from supply and purchase through production and manufacturing, all the way out to sales channels,” Lisa says.

“If we can do all that heavy lifting – saving time and effort and minimising errors – companies like Volcano Coffee Works can focus on growing their business and interacting with customers, instead of being tied up with managing processes, data, and transactions.”

Rather than being installed on individual computers, Unleashed Software is a cloud-based platform, meaning it’s able to update the system or accommodate growth with few ramifications for its users.

“Cloud technology is at the core of what we’re about. There’s no upgrade path or infrastructure costs and our delivery mechanism – through the internet – is efficient and keeps the software well-priced. We can also scale up our infrastructure as our existing customers grow and new ones come onboard internationally,” Lisa says. 

“As our customers’ businesses grow too, they also don’t have to worry about scaling up their infrastructure because we’re effectively providing that service.”

With 10 years of experience catering to industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare, Unleashed Software has developed a wide client base, including more than 1500 businesses in Australia. Lisa says entering the coffee industry has provided Unleashed Software a chance to emphasise and develop new features within its platform.

coffee roasters scale
Emma Loisel is the Co-founder and Chair of Volcano Coffee Works.

“Coffee has been a really exciting segment because a lot of coffee businesses care about what we call ‘product provenance’, or where something comes from,” Lisa says.

“Batch Tracking provides full traceability from source to sale on various batches of coffee as it reaches the consumer. There is a growing interest across multiple industries among consumers who want to know where their products come from and be assured of their quality and authenticity.”

Volcano Coffee Works’ Emma says automating Batch Tracking through Unleashed is the next step in streamlining traceability in her roasting production processes.

“Our ethical trading principles mean it’s important to us that we know exactly where all of our coffee comes from and that the farmer is paid above production costs. Now, we will have a simple way to know exactly where it’s going as well,” Emma says. “Being able to know and track what coffee has gone into each blend is critical. If a customer wants to know where their coffee is from, we can confidently demonstrate that traceability in our system.”

Volcano Coffee Works is preparing to move to a new UK production site four times the size of its existing roastery. Unleashed will send a team to help optimise the software for the new facility. This will include introducing its “Bill of Materials” feature, allowing Volcano Coffee Works to accurately monitor production costs from waste to third-party packaging.

“Our partnership with Unleashed means as our business changes, Unleashed is there to help advise us on how to best operate to get the most out of the software,” Emma says.

Integration with other platforms, including Xero, Shopify, and Amazon, has also allowed Volcano Coffee Works to streamline administrative tasks, as employees no longer need to manually carry over information from one system to the next.

“We run two production sites, two warehouses, and teams in multiple countries. For us, having a system bringing all of that workflow together is really critical,” Emma says. “It’s improved our client’s access too. They now use the B2B portal, which gives them the ability to place orders whenever they want.”

Unleashed’s B2B portal enables customers to see levels of product availability in real time, preventing them from unintentionally ordering items that are out of stock. Their view of the catalogue can also be customised to present items they frequently purchase, special pricings or sales, and new additions. Emma says this allows her growing business to preserve the feeling of a personal end-customer experience.

coffee roasters scale
Volcano Coffee Works is using Unleashed Software’s Batch Tracking to help streamline traceabililty in its roasting processes.

“It resembles and can be used like any other online ordering website, with an ability to load the pictures and information our customers need. It has become a key portal between our business and theirs,” she says. “Before, they had to call up to place an order or send an email without an automatic confirmation. Now they’re able to quickly jump on an online portal and order what they need. I was pleased but not surprised by how well it was adopted by our customers.”

Emma says this means her staff can focus on the high-value tasks that add greater value to their customers.

“We’ve been able to move staff from purely operational order flow to customer services and success, which is a huge deal for us,” Emma says.

“Our team has time to really focus on what’s actually going on with our customers. Do they need training? Preventative maintenance? How can we support them be more successful and achieve their business goals?”

Unleashed’s Lisa says with a business as close-knit as coffee, it’s important companies are able to maintain this level of connection while they grow.

“Coffee has the ability to scale globally in a unique way. It’s a growing market, and with our technology, companies that have already carved out their own niche can invest more time in reaching new markets,” Lisa says.

This article appears in FULL in the October 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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