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Coffee Roasters Australia launches Phantom Series roaster

From the August 2018 issue.

Coffee Roasters Australia Technology has created an Australian made model that’s set to draw attention to the country’s manufacturing standards, rather than just cup quality.

Unlike other superheroes, the Phantom has no superpowers and relies solely on his strength, intelligence and reputation as a fierce warrior.

These same qualities can be applied to the Phantom Series roaster. The 100 per cent Australian made roaster has been years in the making, and now its creators, Mark and Alana Beattie of Coffee Roasters Australia (CRA) Technology, are ready for the world to take notice.

“The launch of the Australian made Phantom Roaster is a combination of a lot of years of work and determination. It’s been a really hard process not without its highs and lows, but we’re proud of the outcome,” Mark Beattie says. “We get enjoyment from making things, having a go, and using the industry knowledge we’ve learned over the years, and showing the market that Australia can be competitive on the manufacturing stage.”

For the past 15 years, CRA Technology has been a distributor of overseas coffee roasters. Installing them into the Australian market, however, requires modification to meet Australian gas and electrical standards, and lead time for shipment is anywhere from four to five months.

Over time, Beattie started compliance work – fitting roasters with complete gas works and its own proprietary roasting control system called Coffee Sweet. Launched seven years ago, this software addresses the demand for control and customisation from Australian consumers.
Before long, Beattie started designing and manufacturing complementary roaster parts such as afterburners and destoners. It got to the point that Beattie was receiving roasters as empty shells and fitting them with internal features he designed. That’s when he designed to take production one step further.

“We looked at the structure of a roaster, how we could make one with fewer parts, and then worked on a design and the feasibility for making one here in Australia,” Beattie says.

“Traditionally, the skeleton of a drum roaster and how it works isn’t much different to how it was 100 years ago. What has changed is technology. There’s more automation, different heating systems and more energy efficiency. We didn’t want to totally reinvent the wheel, just produce a high quality, consistent product that gives customers the options and control they want.”

Based on feedback, this included greater control over a wider range of roasting profiles from filter right through to espresso and milk- based.

“Every customer is different, but if you only have the one option for them you’ll lose the customer to another [company] that provides that flexibility,” Beattie says.

To cater for these demands, CRA Technology conducted its own research and development on electrical and heating systems and worked with Griffith University engineering students to find new solutions.

“It’s quite strange that Australia is considered one of the market leaders of coffee consumption, innovation and barista-made coffee, yet we don’t manufacturer many products,” Beattie says. “We saw it as a real challenge, and it was.”

Traditionally, Australian manufacturing and labour costs are expensive, and the market absorbs this price. As such, businesses look to overseas manufacturers where prices are significantly reduced.

“The challenge for us was how to produce a roaster in Australia with more flexibility and more precision in a shorter time at cheaper costs,” Beattie says. “We knew that if we could eliminate some of the most expensive and unnecessary parts of the machine, there would be fewer tolerance issues and less rework, which gives us an advantage to turn production around faster.”

To make the roaster manufacturer viable, Beattie looked to local suppliers on the Gold Coast using high quality technology and industry-leading machinery and techniques on their doorstep – literally within a 15-minute radius – rather than investing in onsite operations. This included sheet metal laser cutting, water jetting, folding, rolling, computer numerical controlled milling and powder coating. The remaining design, electrical, gas work, assembly and some of welding and milling was done at CRA Technology’s headquarters in Arundel, Queensland.

By May 2017, the first Phantom Series roasters were launched: a 22-kilogram and seven-kilogram roaster. At the time, CRA Technology could claim 60 to 70 per cent of the manufacturing costs in Australia, which was impressive, but still not 100 per cent.

“We still had to import some prefabricated parts to enable us to launch at a competitive price while we continued to work on ways to be able to manufacture completely in Australia in order to give us more control over production and allow us to target the export market,” Beattie says.

In order to reach that goal, in the first half of 2018, CRA Technology revisited the design of the roaster to find ways to reduce manufacturing lead times. A large part of this was eliminating the hand welding time for the roaster chassis, which is an expensive and time-consuming process.

Instead, the majority of the Phantom machine is constructed using folded sheet metal components that Beattie says are more precisely built in much less time.

“This also allows us the flexibility to easily change or modify parts at a later date. If any parts are damaged in transit then they can be replaced easily,” he says.

CRA Technology also developed a new double wall drum design with a floating outer layer to enable air circulation between layers for more responsiveness during roasting. This ensures the inner layer is insulated directly from the burners to reduce roasting defects.

Another significant feature is CRA Technology’s own metal fibre burner technology that is available as an option in its new range.

Heavy focus has also been put on energy efficient heating and precise control thanks to CRA Technology’s research and subsequent manufacturer of its own burners.

“We decided to develop our own so we have complete control over one of the most important parts of a coffee roaster – the heating system. We are able to achieve more efficient combustion results and a wider range of control over heat transfer right down to infrared,” Beattie says. “We can install the burners as atmospheric, semi premix or full premix with various burner and valve controls.”

Even CRA Technology’s Coffee Sweet control system has been developed further. The third- generation software platform offers advanced datalogging functionality along with cloud-based technology for storage of profiles.

A lot of roasters utilise programmable logic controller (PLC) systems but then use a separate datalogging system due to the limitation in the PLC for graphing and analysis. CRA Technology’s system is an all-inclusive system for the control and software without the need for anything else.

A basic version of the system is free to customers, with a Pro upgrade option available through subscription. “We are always updating and improving the system with new features and making releases available to our customers,” Beattie says.

The new Phantom range of roasters is available in seven kilogram, 15-kilogram and 22-kilogram sizes, and will be available to market from the later half of 2018.

The Phantom range, one being manual with datalogger, the other with the full Coffee Sweet control and various upgrade automation options, as well as colours, is set for international export by mid-2019 with the help of government grants and support.

CRA Technology will soon commence the process of appointing distribution agents in target markets. “From our initial soft launch we’ve seen interest already from the Asian markets and, with the way the Australian dollar is going, we expect the cost of an Australian made roaster will be attractive to the Europe, the United Kingdom and American markets. Price point matched with the quality Australia is known for, will make a complete package,” Beattie says.

CRA Technology will be exhibiting at Host Milan 2019. Beattie says it will go with an open mind ready to take on feedback from different markets.

With a positive soft launch already in the international market, Beattie is optimistic about the Phantom’s uptake, with the capacity to develop even larger roasters of 30 kilograms plus.

“We didn’t want to run before we could walk, but now that we’re walking I hope others can realise that you can achieve your goals if you’re willing to put in the hard work. We’ve done that. Now, all we want now is for the industry to enjoy great tasting coffee.”

For more information visit www.cratechnology.com.au

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