December 2008 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Charles Graffeo, Sr.: Wake Up and Smell the Coffee

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Coffee drinkers in certain regions of the South should raise their cups in salute to Charles Graffeo, Sr. At Community Coffee Company in Baton Rouge, La., Graffeo is responsible for the whole process chain—purchasing, logistics, manufacturing, and distribution—that takes coffee from bean to cup. Graffeo joined Community Coffee in 2006 as general manager of manufacturing. This year, the firm promoted him to director of supply chain.

Founded in 1919, Community Coffee sells its products to grocery stores and provides coffee service to restaurants, convenience stores, and offices in Louisiana, Texas, and the Southeast. It sells direct to consumers through its Web site and operates CC's Community Coffee House shops in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and New Orleans.

Coffee beans from Brazil, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, and other locations start their trip to Community Coffee by barge, via the coffee ports of Houston and New Orleans. Then they move by truck to a third-party warehouse or to Community Coffee's manufacturing facility in Baton Rouge. Four times along the way from origin to distribution, the company "cups" its coffee, brewing a sample to taste for quality.

A champion of lean processes, Graffeo is always looking for ways to reduce his company's supply chain operating costs. That has been a key to coping with an unstable economy and high fuel prices. One important strategy is to find more efficient ways to manage the company's fleet of more than 400 vehicles, used by its sales reps, delivery drivers, and technicians.

"We're trying to optimize utilization and fuel efficiency," Graffeo says. "We're also looking at the age of our fleet." If maintenance costs start to climb after a vehicle turns six years old, for example, the company might trade it in for a newer model.

Community Coffee also uses automated vehicle location (AVL), with global positioning system (GPS) units on the vehicles, to boost fleet efficiency. "We examine drivers' routes for obstacles or congestion," Graffeo says. "We can detour them to a more efficient route if necessary."

Dispatchers also use the AVL to determine which of the company's field technicians is best positioned to respond to a customer's call for coffee machine service.

One improvement Graffeo would like to introduce is the use of bar-code scanning in the warehouse. "If products are bar coded, all we have to do is scan them on a forklift to take them out of warehouse inventory and add them to the truck inventory. That expediency will improve the process," he says. The most important benefit would be getting product to customers more quickly.

Making improvements of that kind are all part of Charles Graffeo's continual effort to fulfill Community Coffee's mission statement: "Enrich the lives of consumers with great coffee experiences, every day."

The Big Questions

What do you do when you're not at work?

My hobbies are golf and basketball. I spend most of my free time with my kids; on weeknights, I teach them basketball and soccer.

Ideal dinner companion?

Abraham Lincoln. He achieved success even after numerous failures throughout his career, and I would like to know what drove him despite those failures.

What's in your briefcase?

A computer, budgets, calculator, business cards from other companies and suppliers, and articles on supply chain and logistics.

What's your idea of a great day on the job?

When our employees complete their work efficiently and safely. We cannot take employee safety lightly; without our employees, there is no company.

If you didn't work in supply chain management, what would be your dream job?

I would love to be an entrepreneur and help manufacturers, especially in the CPG industry, overcome their deficiencies or bottlenecks. I'd help them put programs and procedures in place to make their processes more efficient.

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