Cascade Coffee – growing its batching system with Cablevey

Managing a roasting operation with multiple coffees on order can be difficult at the best of times. For Cascade Coffee, leading contract roasters in the United States with around 25 clients across the country and abroad, juggling the needs of multiple coffee brands – each with its own array of coffee – poses an even greater challenge. “Whether a customers wants to supply their own beans, wants help developing their roast profile, or wants us to source the green coffee, whatever the customer needs, we deliver,” says Jerry Klobertanz, Maintenance Manager at Cascade Coffee. The result of juggling all these different needs is upwards of 12 third-party audits a year, on everything from food safety, to Organic, Kosher and Rainforest Alliance Certification requirements. “We have 25 roasters who all require different specifications. For us to deliver on all those specifications is a challenging job,” says Klobertanz. Fortunately, with almost two decades of experience in contract roasting, Cascade is up to the job. The history of Cascade Coffee dates back to 1995, when Company Founder Phil Johnson sold retail brand Millstone Coffee to Proctor & Gamble. Because the new proprietors weren’t interested in the Everett-based roasting plant in the state of Washington, Johnson established Cascade as a contract roasting operation. Today, the company has an impressive capacity of over 25 million kilograms of coffee, with clients all over the United States, and the world, as far as Japan and Canada. Cascade offers 15 different packaging lines on six coffee roasters. Jerry notes that Cascade has an expertise in gourmet coffee, with an impressive quality and assurance department: “We go over and above to deliver a quality product at a fair price.” Working with this quality of production, and at these high levels, any loss of production or degradation of taste is naturally a major consideration in choosing equipment, according to Jerry. For their conveyance, Cascade Coffee has traditionally used a pneumatic system, one that uses air flow to move its goods. One major problem Jerry says they came across with this system was a high percentage of bean breakage among their whole bean production, upwards of 10 per cent. The company also had issues with the air used in the pneumatic system that would de-oxydate the coffee at uncontrollable levels, and also result in a high level of densification. In 2013 the company was looking to add 12 new bins to their current 24-bin batching system. In adding a new silo system adjacent to the current silo system, Pat Lyon, Cascade Coffee Vice President of Operations, says that they needed a conveyance system that could handle green coffee, roasted whole bean coffee, and importantly, ground coffee. “When we were delivering the coffee pneumatically, we were finding it had a natural tendancy to de-oxydate,” says Lyon. “As the density would change this had a significant impact on the packaging stages.” Another downfall of the pneumatic system that Klobertanz points to is the need for a receiver hopper with cyclonic affect to slow down the beans as they arrive at their end destination. “That’s a huge hardship on coffee,” he says. “It makes such a big difference in bean breakage.” In looking for an alternative to the pneumatic system, the team turned to Michael Judy, an International Sales Representative for Cablevey. Some of the Cascade Coffee staff had worked with Judy on another project, and turned to him for the new set-up. As a tubular conveyor system, Cablevey equipment can safely transport beans at tight angles, and with a highly flexible layout arrangement. The nature of the tubular conveyance system doesn’t require any cyclone to slow down the beans, as the product can simply be dropped into the hopper. These were all characteristics that came in handy when Judy was fitting out Cascade Coffee. “It was pretty straightforward at the beginning, the fit-out didn’t seem to have many hurdles,” says Judy, who – as a trained engineer – looked after the entire fit-out for the system. “Then, when it came down to where we had to place the Cablevey, it got a bit trickier.” Because of space limitations, the system had to be laced through the rafters at the top of the manufacturing floor. Even more challenging was that they couldn’t place any weight on the rafters, and so Judy and his team had to build separate steel structures to support the system. Fortunately Cablevey offered the flexibility to deal with the space constraints of the building. Because other systems can’t bend any tighter than 90 degrees, and need minimum clearance rates, they simply would not have fit into Cascade Coffee’s current operations.  Another major challenge, Judy explains, was that they couldn’t shut down any of the equipment in the factory, and so had to work around a fully functioning production line throughout the installation. In fact, the only time they could train the staff was at 3am, during a night shift. Despite all these challenges, Judy says the flexibility of the Cablevey system, and the support of Cascade Coffee, made the fit-out run quite smoothly. “It was a very enjoyable project,” says Judy. “It was a huge challenge, and you don’t always see these hurdles upfront. But we just made it happen. We were willing to work hard, and willing to be flexible.” Cascade’s Klobertanz says the results they’ve seen were well worth the time and investment. The Cablevey conveyors have greatly improved Cascade Coffee’s operations efficiency. “We’ve seen an increase in our throughput and out loading capabilities,” Klobertanz says. “We can continuously fill our silos with no down time to roasting.” Most impressive, is the drop in bean breakage rates to an astounding less than 2 per cent. “It’s a huge improvement,” says Lyon. “It’s a much more gentle system.”

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