Andrew Stacy is more than just a coffee machine technician. He’s an essential service for the coffee industry, as well as a councillor, communicator, and customer service ambassador.
On the days where café operators are at their peak of stress due to a machine breakdown, leakage or blockage, Brew Solutions Australia Technical Manager Andrew Stacy arrives with an open mind and a calming influence.
“It’s my job to gather clear information to find out what’s actually going on and coach the customer through the situation. When people feel they have been understood and know what your intentions are, it builds trust,” Andrew says. “At the time, customers are understandably worried about loss of workflow and downtime. You’re dealing with that plus the pressure to fix something.”
Andrew started working with a small coffee roasting repair agent in 2006. He didn’t grow up with any aspirations to be a technician, but when a family friend offered him a job helping clean the roaster, working front of house and fixing machines, it led to an apprenticeship, an electrical licence, and a trade certificate.
“I can clearly remember the first brand I worked with was Rancilio. Their machines were the be-all and end-all of the industry, before the multi-boiler phase,” Andrew says.
He worked with domestic appliances before joining the corporate coffee space for several years. When Andrew moved to Brew Solutions in 2016, he says it reinvigorated his passion for working with business owners, and the satisfaction he gets from seeing a problem and fixing it.
“Fortunately, over the 16 years I’ve been in the industry, equipment has changed, problems have changed, and it’s kept me interested,” Andrew says.
He notes the advent of the multi-boiler, complexity of fast-switching, digitalisation, and addition of extra boilers, gears, and LED-touchscreens displaying shot times have been a huge evolution.
“Older machines used to have mechanical pressure switches that were driven by steam and would go ‘clunk, clunk, clunk’. You had to listen to those noises to identify the issue,” Andrew says. “Technology has really come a long way. The principles are still the same – hot water, steam, brewing, pumps, water flow, flow meters – just the methods are a bit different now.”
What’s unique about the evolution of coffee equipment, Andrew adds, is that consumers have driven a lot of the market innovations.
“Coffee, when I started, was simply pulling the lever a couple of times, and scraping the top of the coffee off. There was no talk about how many grams it was. Everything was a 17-gram basket, or a nine-gram single. When the consumer started to change things by weighing their coffee and wanting precision, such as 22-grams in the basket, not 17, industry manufacturers started to adjust their equipment accordingly,” Andrew says. “That’s when we started seeing the introduction of scales and more precision in the flow rate to achieve the pre-infusion before pulling the shot.”
What’s also changed, is the volume of coffee machine options on the market. To ensure Andrew and the Brew Solutions team remain at the forefront of technology changes, requires constant customer feedback and manufacturer contact.
Andrew is in charge of Brew Solutions’ technical division and service department, overseeing equipment, sales and the coordination of jobs and custom relations. Each morning, he leads his team in a ‘tech talk’, a daily brief to affirm the day’s work and talk through any complexities that may be involved.
“The more complex machines become, the more common it is to see issues,” Andrew says.
“Twenty years ago, the internal workings of a machine were pretty straightforward compared to what we’re looking at now. Today, we have things such as auto flushing, and if it doesn’t work every single the time, because of a software issue or because the sensor isn’t quite aligned properly, it becomes a bigger problem that affects the way the operator uses the equipment and disrupts the regular work pattern.”
Even the industry understanding of ‘servicing’ has evolved. Gone are the days of picking up a tool bag and a box of spare parts to fix a busted group seal. Now, it’s about a “whole picture approach”.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that being a good coffee machine technician is about having good principles, applying etiquette, and understanding the customer’s needs and expectations. Once you understand that, you can apply a solution,” Andrew says.
To get to this point, Andrew and his team apply the principle ‘seek to understand’, first listening to the customer share a brief of the problem. The technicians then identify the ‘top three’ expectations from the customer’s list.
“The first problem the customer shares is usually the most important one. The second issue they might mention is that the steam wand is a bit rattly and makes noise. And then they describe a third problem, such as a leak,” he says.
“We always apply our service method and protocols, but if you service those top three things, and nothing else, the customer feels like a negotiation has taken place.”
Brew Solutions covers a broad spectrum of equipment and works mostly in the traditional coffee machine market space. To ensure technicians are well prepped for the job, call outs are transferred into a job system where the issue and notes can be passed on, much like an ambulance responding to an emergency call. An internal messaging platform also enables the technicians to connect on important customer considerations, such as the need to be mindful of budget, ensuring they’re not 10 minutes late to the job, or to enter a site via the backdoor.
“Our job is about how to best serve the customer. That includes our principle of human interaction and seeking out that set of customer expectations, understanding their needs and how we can apply ourselves to meet those expectations. It doesn’t always mean picking up a screwdriver,” Andrew says.
Very few coffee machine technicians come into the role with past coffee industry experience, however it’s the breadth of knowledge and skill level from software engineers and mechanical engineers that’s reinvigorating the role. Andrew is also studying an engineering diploma to further his own development.
“I’ve always been that person that if I saw something was broken, I knew I could fix it and make it better. Fixing machines is still so rewarding and studying is definitely helping to expand my knowledge and possibilities,” he says.
Andrew still finds enjoyment in those “high-five moments” where he sees the impact his work has made. The other side of the job that’s often not talked about, however, is the impact and pressure applied to machine technicians.
“Sometimes we don’t come up with a fix. Some things just don’t work, and we can’t wave a magic wand to fix something then and there. There are those peaks and troughs and times that accumulate. When you’re going back-to-back, job-to-job, working with emotional customers, the stress can build up because we carry the weight of expectation,” Andrew says. “One of the more liberating things about working in a team, however, is the ability to share those experiences and normalise the situation.”
Thankfully, Andrew says no two days are the same, and each presents a different challenge.
“I’m really fortunate to work with [Co-founders] Geoff and Leigh Michelmore and the whole team. We have a great time when we’re altogether. There’s something to always challenge me, and that’s what keeps things interesting.”
For more information, visit brewsolutions.com.au
This article appears in the August 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.