We’re always looking for ways to use Tulip’s Manufacturing App Platform to make life in the office a little easier. Last week, we developed a great new one. Meet Coffee App. 

 

The idea for the Coffee App came from our office manager, Stina.

Stina was tasked with repeating the instructions and quirks of our coffee makers to every new employee (and there are a lot, we’re growing fast!).

But more importantly, some of our colleagues were misusing the machines, leading to messes and breakages (c’mon guys). Stina proposed that we build an app to digitize the coffee making process. 

In just about two hours, two of our interns created Coffee App without writing a single line of code. 

How does the app work?

If you have a coffee maker, you know how complicated and picky these appliances can be. Grind size, dosage, optimal amount of water — they all require a unique series of steps. It’s almost like they want you to sweat for that much needed cup of morning caffeine.

We simplified the process by putting an app on a tablet next to the coffee makers. 

We have two coffee makers in our Somerville offices — a drip coffee maker and an espresso machine —  so the first step when you open the app is to choose whether you want drip coffee or espresso. Then, depending on what you select, you are directed to the appropriate instructions path.

 

 

Say you want espresso. The app will first prompt you to verify if the machine is on, and show you a short video indicating the Power On button. Once the machine is on, you click next.

 

 

Then, Coffee App presents you with a checklist. The app will not let you proceed until you’ve answered Yes to every directive. 

 

 

The app will continue to guide you, step by step, until your cup of coffee is ready. It will show you how to grind beans, tamp the grounds, position the filter, and extract a double shot of black gold. 

Connecting the App to IoT

In addition to Tulip’s app building software, Coffee App also uses some of the platform’s hardware components, specifically break beam sensors and I/O gateways. The sensors collect information that the gateways transfer to the app. 

Let’s look at one set of sensors used with our drip coffee maker.

 

 

The drip coffee maker has two carafes. The carafe on the top shelf is used to fill the drip coffee maker. The carafe on the lower shelf is the one that receives the coffee.

The two sensors work as a pair. If the upper sensor detects that the top-shelf carafe has been removed, and the lower sensor detects that the bottom-self carafe is also not in place, then an alert appears on the app. This is a high risk situation! The user seems to be forgetting that if he pours water in the coffee maker without the lower carafe in place to receive the liquid, there will be major spillage. 

If one of the machine’s hot plates is “on” but no carafe is present, the app will send an alert to replace the carafe or to turn off the hotplate.

How is Coffee App similar to manufacturing apps that are used on shop floors?

Coffee App, at its core, is a work instructions app. It guides operators through a process, step by step. The instructions are media-rich: they contain videos and images. They are also interactive: they keep our employees engaged so that they’re less likely to make a mistake and more likely to make a satisfying cup of coffee.

Better yet, the app automatically collects process time data as the app runs. So now our office “operators” know if they are faster or slower than the norm (is that something you can get bragging rights for?). 

Coffee App is also a quality app. It is much more difficult for operators to make mistakes when they are prompted to make all the necessary check-ups. Sensors automatically check some important parameters as well, like making sure the bottom carafe is in place. In this way, Coffee App exemplifies poka yoke, a lean manufacturing tool that refers to “mistake-proofing” a process. 

All in all, Coffee App was life-changing. Not just for our office manager, but for everyone here at Tulip. Now, we are empowered to perform to the best of our coffee-making abilities!

Tulip, the no code manufacturing app platform, lets manufacturers design to solutions to their most pressing challenges. Interest in learning more? Check our app library. Ready to start building? Start a free trial to create custom apps, or tailor a template.