Welcome to 2016! Since we are into a new year, it is once again time to look at some resolutions that, hopefully, will make for a more prosperous and successful year ahead.
1. Remove the baddies. Longtime readers will be familiar with this one, as it always has been tops on my list. Take five to 10 minutes and do a quick walk-through of the warehouse to randomly check code dates. Occasionally, I have seen operators who are impeccable at inventory turns and FIFO adherence, but I bet that nine out of 10 warehouses with perishable items in them will be guilty of having some outdated product kicking around.
It can be challenging just keeping up with all of the code-dating that different manufacturers use, so you might start by contacting each and finding out exactly what code system they use, so the task of winnowing out the out-dates will be easier. Once you've made sure the culprits are on their way to the Food Bank (etc.), check out the sales sampling area as well. This can sometimes hold the worst offenders as outdates go, and it is arguably the most important area to maintain at the highest level of freshness.
2. Close the museum. There may be nothing more painful to the eyes, or the balance-sheet, than the old equipment graveyard found in most every OCS, vending and pure-water service warehouse. From one pallet to dozens, depending on the size of the operation, I know that every warehouse I've ever seen is guilty of carrying a "museum" of every iteration of well-intended brewer ingenuity. Much of it is likely already written down to zero, so it is not so painful to the balance-sheet as it is to the efficient use of the facilities you're paying for. Ancient equipment may be taking up all that valuable space in the hope that, one day, it will miraculously be demanded in order to close that next big deal. Let me be the bearer of bad news here: it won't.
I'm not referring to the brewers that are mainstay bread-and-butter units that can be mined for parts even when their days on the street are over because of misuse or abuse. Rather, I'm talking about the one-off prototype brewer that your latest greatest sales opportunity demanded you install, and that lasted on location for three months before they went bankrupt. Add up enough years in business, and this relic heap can get rather large. But, after a quick clean-up, it can be donated (along with any outdated coffee) for a nice writeoff. It may not be an enjoyable decision, but it is one that will lessen the pain. And gaining that space will get you and the crew smiling.
3. Next Gen: when you say when. My equipment friends and acquaintances will not be pleased with this one, but a strong contender for best 2016 resolution would be to stop buying first-generation anything, and let the bugs get worked out on someone else's dime and time. It can be very tough to hold back when an awesome concept comes along, but we've all lived through at least one release that should have waited for more tweaks before it saw the light of day. I don't need to name names because, in fairness, there is likely at least one stain on even the best company's new-product introduction record. With so much manufacturing having moved overseas in the past 20 years, the bugs have grown in size and frequency, although I have heard that things are slowly improving.
An exception to this policy would exempt any equipment, service or software that has been tried and tested in other industries and has now entered ours. It might still take some serious extra effort, in the case of software, but might be worth it anyway if the innovation is accretive to the bottom line.
4. Just say NO! We've all had them: the salespeople who often claim to need very specific -- and very non-present in the warehouse -- equipment or product in order to land the next deal. Sales are tough to come by, but the costs associated with adding items not presently in the lineup, and not likely to be in the near future, can make a lot of possible closes not worth the effort. Minimum quantity buys on product can lead to the outdated products we just got rid of in resolution No. 1, if the client decides to switch products, as they so often do, or if they go out of business -- or just decide to leave you for the next latest and greatest offering. Even if they stay loyal, it can be risky to be everything to everybody unless you have decided that it's your niche and you know how to manage it well.
Regardless of whether you take on any of the above, or maybe institute a few resolutions of your own, I hope everyone has a wonderful 2016 and, as always, may your cup run full and the brew, exquisite.
KEVIN DAW is president of Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private-label roaster serving the breaktime management industries. A 30-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past two decades.