Everyone knows that great systems make your life easier – and everyone knows that COFFEE makes the world go round (at least before 11am!). Which means the system we’re about to describe HAS to be the greatest system ever designed – because it speeds the delivery of that double-shot ¾ full flat white that fuels your inspiration and all-round business prowess on a daily basis!!

Let me explain..

So this system doesn’t involve ipads, or touch-screens, or databases, or API integration. Actually, it doesn’t involve electricity at all. In fact, it is so deceptively simple, that you’ve probably never even thought of it as a system. But in actual fact its simple elegance contains systems genius – and has been accurately delivering the correct coffee to customers for years!

We are of course talking about the common (at least in Sydney!) practice of writing customer’s coffee orders directly onto the lid of the coffee to be made. This, in our humble opinion exhibits some pretty classic systems design features:

  1. Encapsulation
    The customer brief, the manufacturing instructions, and the final product are all intrinsically linked (they’re on the lid!) , ensuring accurate, accountable delivery of the customer’s requirements every time..
  2. Kanban
    I bet you’ve never thought about the fact that row of coffee lids bears an uncanny resemblance to a Kanban Board. But look again, and we reckon you’ll never see it in the same light again!!
  3. In built queuing (with dynamic re-prioritisation)
    An important client comes to you with an unforeseen urgent deadline (the boss just called!) – no problem – simply put the lid at the front of the queue!
  4. Tracking
    You can SEE how many back orders you have, what current demand is, whether you have sufficient capacity and raw materials. It doesn’t get much simpler than that..
  5. Resilience
    Barring a strong gust of wind, there’s really nothing that can go wrong. No system crashes, no internet reliance, even a power outage wouldn’t cause any lost data!!
    (the last example is of course largely irrelevant – because unless you just ordered a cold batch brew – there’s not going to be a lot of barista-ing going on without any electricity!)

I think we’ve made our case – but why are we telling you all this??! Well, partly so you can marvel at how clever baristas are. But mainly because we can all be tempted to throw technology or features at a problem in order to find a solution. But the truth is (and bear in mind we are in the business of developing technology!), Simple is usually best. And ultra-simplicity like the coffee-lid system (that consistently, efficiently and with incredibly low-friction produces exactly what you set it up to do) is where the real systems genius lies.

We reckon that’s thought of the day..

Stu Hawkins

About Stu Hawkins

Stu lives in Sydney, Australia and has been to known to actually get quite emotional when he discovers someone has been unnecessarily doing work that their technology could have been doing for them. Other things that get him emotional are the firm expectation that the England football team will one day have two stars on their shirts, the Portugese Restaurant scene in Love Actually, and pretty much anything his granddaughter does..

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