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4 Things We’ve Learned From Starbucks, The Queen of Quality Control

David Dell | Nov 1, 2016

As in any other line of business, supply chain optimization is critical in almost every aspect of the food supply industry. The bigger your company gets, the more you need to ...

starbucks-supply-chain-optimization.jpgAs in any other line of business, supply chain optimization is critical in almost every aspect of the food supply industry. The bigger your company gets, the more you need to ensure that your manufacturing and distribution processes are streamlined. Take Starbucks Corporation for example, their success depends highly on a supply chain operation that balances efficiency with sustainability from bean to cup.

Starbucks sources coffee and other merchandise from all over the world and delivers it to over 24,000 retail stores, which serve 60 million customers in 74 different countries every week. Without supply chain optimization, there is absolutely no way they could have maintained the same quality as they have grown over time.

Here are 4 quality control tips we’ve learned Starbucks:

1. Thinking Local

If you think all it takes to curate that grande mocha latte at your local Starbucks is a bag of imported coffee beans, think again. Milk, sugar, cream, and other additives are integral ingredients in the typical coffee cup served by your neighborhood barista, and sometimes comprise more of what’s in your cup than the actual coffee does. However, getting these resources from suppliers across the nation and in some cases, the globe can be problematic. Ingredients spoil, commercial trucks break down, and natural disasters like droughts can negatively impact the supply chain. So how does Starbucks avoid these issues? By purchasing locally sourced ingredients and supplies Starbucks is able to maintain a high standard of product no matter the country or city.

For your firm, buying resources locally has a twofold benefit: maintaining a strong relationship with suppliers in the community while stimulating the growth of other businesses. Not only will suppliers work harder to provide you with the best materials, but also you'll engender the goodwill from local surrounding venues just like Starbucks does. Meeting sustainability initiatives could also be an added perk!

2. Centralized Manufacturing 

Even with thousands of coffee shops operating in six different continents all over the world, Starbucks uses one centralized system to manage its supply chain and logistics network. To be exact, Starbucks oversees 9 global distribution centers located across the United States, Europe, and Asia. This might seem like a ridiculously low number for such a large operation, but in doing so it ensures consistency with every single bean that gets prepared, manufactured, and packaged among the hundreds of thousands of pounds of coffee being processed on a daily basis.

For your business, managing a small number of distribution centers means fewer concerns over quality control. The less regional divisions to review and monitor, the less likely it is that those local sites will fail to comply with company-wide quality standards.

3. Last Line of Defense 

In the event that something slipped passed Starbucks’ initial evaluations at the distribution center, there still exists a contingency plan to ensure final product quality. Starbucks has seven employees, known as “cuppers” whose only job is to test about 75% of the 500 million pounds of beans the company buys every year and ensure the beans examined meet internal compliance and quality standards.

Quality control means everything when maintaining a supply chain. The key learning point here is to design, test, and implement safeguards that will ensure your business' well being in the event something goes awry. Consider those measures something akin to an insurance policy for your supply chain.

4. The Experience 

The look and feel of each store is critical to Starbucks. From the furniture that they use to the merchandise that they sell, lighting fixtures to colors and textures, they have spent years cultivating a brand that comes across as hip, casual, and classy all at the same time. More importantly, this look is ubiquitous among Starbucks chains, whether you're in Hong Kong or Kalamazoo, Michigan. This represents a shared romantic ideal of what a coffee shop should be like. So much so that Starbucks has advanced past simply promoting their coffee but rather "the coffee lifestyle."

Customers who know what to expect from your firm are more likely to continue using your services, even when visiting branches halfway across the world. The power of a strong brand is that it can cultivate an experience that your clientele can come to love and expect both at home and abroad.

Regardless of whether you’re a manufacturer or a retailer, all of these strategies can be applied to your business to a certain degree. Supply chain optimization and standardizing best practices learned from Starbucks are the key to quality, efficiency, and consistency.

Achieve Results! 

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