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Improving coffee production in Colombia


Penagos Hermanos is a Colombian factory that manufactures machines for coffee production. After 120 years in the same place, the company and its now more than 200 employees are ready to change location. One year from now they will be moving into brand-new, sustainably built premises.

Expert Bram Sneep made his debut as a PUM expert when Penagos Hermanos called in his assistance to offer advice on the best choices for the factory layout and options for making operations at the current and future factory more sustainable. At least in the new engineering works, the company aims to pay more attention to the needs of nature and the environment. This called for a careful assessment of production and the related organisation in particular.

Bram Sneep talks about his first PUM mission in Colombia: “After a 20-hour journey I finally arrived in Girón, where the current Penagos Hermanos factory is based. On paper, at least, the factory reminded me very much of my own former engineering business, so I expected to recognise a great deal of similarities in the mode of operation.

No lack of ambition

It quickly became clear that the factory is a well-oiled business. They already hold an ISO 9001 certificate for production and engineering, and production itself operates according to the lean management principle. There is also no lack of ambition. General Manager José María Engel explained that the business is currently formulating a strategy that will guide them through the next three decades. Part of that strategy includes offering total solutions, in other words fully integrated projects including not only the machines, but also their housings and even waste processing, IT and power supply.

After extensive observations, my advice for the existing factory above all related to safety, the equipping of storage locations, communication of the corporate values, and reducing the volume of assembly. Naturally, the same advice also applies to the new premises. I was particularly impressed by the high level of personal motivation; everyone was extremely willing to listen and cooperate. This is an essential requirement if you plan to make a real difference.

On the free Saturday, they took me on a very interesting trip to Hacienda el Roble, to see how coffee is grown. On this 320-hectare plantation, the coffee plants grow in the shade provided by trees planted specially for that purpose. The result is a premium coffee. The equipment supplied by Penagos is used for processing the coffee beans; a chopper removes the cherry pulp from the beans. They are still covered in a thin layer of mucilage, which is rinsed off after eighteen hours’ fermentation, using another machine from Penagos. Unlike machines supplied by the competitors, the equipment from Penagos uses very little water, which itself is a scarce resource. The beans are then transferred to the drying area as quickly as possible, where they are put to dry. Beans for premium coffee are dried naturally in sunlight.

During the mission, the new factory was a regular subject of discussion. After talking about the floor layout and positioning of the equipment, we discussed the potential loss of (large numbers of) personnel because the site for the new factory is 25 kilometres from the original factory location.

Essential elements

The advice that delivered the most tangible result was my drawing of how the new building should look, in terms of routing. The original drawing lacked a number of essential elements. After I had pointed this out, the pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place. I also provided a floor design that made the distance covered by the product as logical and as short as possible. They were particularly pleased with this contribution!

Penagos Hermanos was a fantastic company for me to help during my first mission as a PUM expert. I left behind a report with a roadmap and numerous recommendations. They are already working on them and have let me know that they would like to see me again, soon."

Bram Sneep (64) is an expert on Metal: Machine Engineering and Construction. After his career as a founder, owner and director of a technical company in The Netherlands, he registered at PUM. The visit to Penagos Hermanos was his first mission as a PUM expert.