By Prateek Joshi:

From bean to barista, the global coffee industry is valued at over $100 billion. For a producer, distributor or manufacturer in this massive industry, the use of AI for manufacturing can play a vital role in optimizing critical processes. 

Specifically, in retail, agricultural and manufacturing operations, the coffee industry is discovering ways AI applications can benefit everyone from small-scale farmers to large industrial plants. Below are three examples where AI is benefiting the coffee industry.

  1. AI is helping farmers protect their crops.

The increased use of AI applications in agriculture has the potential to help farmers across the world protect their beans from disease and optimize growing conditions by monitoring factors like soil and moisture levels. AI has proven to be especially beneficial to farmers in developing nations in Latin America and Africa, where they can utilize advanced warnings about pests that threaten their crops, as well as receive data-driven insights that can help them adapt to the effects of climate change.

With the price of coffee beans at some of the lowest in a decade, AI and machine learning can provide actionable intelligence and decrease the negative impacts of the massive, yet volatile market. 

  1. AI is helping coffee at the industrial level.

The benefits of IoT-enabled AI are not restricted to the farm. Industrial operations perhaps have the most to benefit from the technology. And with some of the largest coffee companies in the world like Starbucks seriously investing in AI solutions for their industrial processes, the rest of the industry is undoubtedly paying close attention. For example, the word ‘digital’ was used over 40 times on a Starbucks investor call in Q4, 2019, which can only suggest that finding and investing in technology solutions is top-of-mind in the boardroom. 

These digital initiatives are improving industrial processes at coffee manufacturing plants in a number of ways. From decreasing equipment downtime at bottling facilities to monitoring the performance of key assets such as water, chemicals and labor at large plants.  

  1. AI is providing advanced insights into transportation and logistics.

While IoT and AI applications are still in their relatively early days of use, the technologies are quickly gaining steam and don’t appear to be a passing trend. Leading authorities have predicted that half of all manufacturing supply chains will be using some form of AI by 2021.

The use of AI by large coffee producers like Starbucks shows that AI is continuing to deliver numerous benefits to coffee growers and producers. AI is providing benefits to the supply chain such as identifying what time of the year is most advantageous to carry specific varieties in stores. 

Further up the supply chain, AI applications can predict order patterns to reduce or eliminate penalties caused by missed OTIF (On Time in Full) deliveries, providing benefits to every stakeholder in the process.

As outlined above, there is no place in the coffee industry that the use of AI wouldn’t benefit. On the production and retail side, companies in the coffee industry can automate inventory orders and predict equipment maintenance and staffing needs. For farmers, increased AI usage can lead to an improvement in water quality, increased efficiency in coffee processing, packaging, as well as provide a positive impact on the overall bottom-line. On the manufacturing side, issues like unplanned equipment downtime and asset quality can be mitigated with the right AI system. 

Curious about how to get started with AI in your company? Be on the lookout for our new report in January of 2020 that explores some of the challenges manufacturing companies face in getting their AI projects off the ground, as well as how to overcome them. 

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