Irish Coffee & Lean Manufacturing

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One of my Facebook friends made a recent trip to San Francisco.  He visited Buena Vista Cafe and shot a video of the bartender making Irish Coffee.  Apparently they make as many as 100 cups in about a minute using this procedure.  Naturally I started to consider what kind of Lean Manufacturing lessons are to be learned from this spectacle.  Please watch the video and share your thoughts below:

What are the Lean lessons to be learned?

Do you see any principles used here that would be beneficial for your Rapid Change-over Team?

What could you take away from this video to apply at your plant or workplace?[tweetmeme]

Can this be standardized regardless of shift or operator?

In the spirit of Continuous Improvement, what could be done better?


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About Christian Paulsen

Christian Paulsen is an Executive Consultant with 20 years of Lean Manufacturing. Chris adds value to organizations by driving process improvement and bottom line savings. Chris intends to help others by sharing the lessons learned after a quarter century of operational leadership, marriage, parenting, and even longer as a Cubs fan. Your comments on this blog are welcome. You can also connect with Chris via LinnkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook in the right sidebar. Chris welcomes your comments. Christian's professional services are available by contacting him through LinkedIn (right side bar)
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6 Responses to Irish Coffee & Lean Manufacturing

  1. Gerhard W.Kessler says:

    As we can´t see the total quantity needed over a longer period, it is hard to decide, if it could be done faster adding more “workers” and produce it in a One-Piece-Flow method.
    I am not a bar tender but maybe there is a different kind of sugar which does nit to be quirled or portioned whipped cream.
    Again, it is a question of demand in a given time

    • Gerhard,

      Interesting points. I’m told that they need to make as many as 100 in a batch and that they often need 1000 in a night. I’m not sure how many qualified operators (bartenders) they have on a shift though. I was thinking about standardized work and SMED principles. They have a routine that looked the same in different videos with different bartenders. They also had the ingredients ready to go and close by. It clearly would have taken much longer if he didn’t have the black coffee prepared and he had to brew a pot.


  2. Gerhard W.Kessler says:

    Talking about SMED, It´s all about ratio of space needed for regular drinks vs Irish Coffee and the batch size and number of batches per day.
    Than we can calculate space dedicated to the mass of Irish Coffee and number of people needed to share the activity. At reg. SMED-situations you calculate the same. e.g. 2 more people for very limited time in order to get the back to “valued activity”(100 % prodcutivity with the given equipment 🙂 It is difficult to see what they would gain at the bar if they would speed up the Irish Coffee making….as there was no hectic and nobody waiting for a different job .

    • Gerhard,

      There probably is not a big need for them to increase their Irish Coffee capacity. It appears that they need about 63 minutes to make enough for a busy night. That does not include the prep time required (staging supplies and brewing the coffee) but even with that it’s well less than one operator. As you noted, it’s hard to tell if they would benefit from being able to make batches quicker. Interesting and fun discussion….


  3. Mark Graban says:

    The first thing that comes to mind is that the bartender really appears to be working at a frantic pace. Maybe some of that is for theatrics and show, but it looks like he might be “overburdened” as we’d say in the Lean world.

    • Mark,

      Thank you for checking in and commenting on this post. I suspect that there is some showmanship as you suggest. They probably could share some of the tasks if it were very well orchestrated. They would need a more narrow table so one operator could be on each side but with some practice it could be done. Thanks for your insight.


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