CONVERSATIONS. Dan and 10-year product lifespans, Swiss manufacturing, and loving your job.

I stopped short of the Starbucks entrance because I saw someone doing something interesting. So I stopped, because it is my DNA to do so.

What sort of machine are you working on?
I asked the fellow, a possible mustachioed distant cousin of Kevin James from northern Italy.

He looked up from the outdoor bistro table where he had a contraption the size of a sewing machine splayed out.
Espresso machine!
He barked kindly.

I said.
So...this one is worth fixing?

Oh yeah,
He nodded confidently, his hands a flurry.
Definitely. I’ll get this one going.

How do you determine whether one is worth fixing?
I asked.

They’re engineered for ten-year lifespans.
He explained.
All of ‘em. After that, there’s no guarantee for parts or support. Ten years.

That’s a manufacturing decision?
I asked.

Oh yeah.
He said.
They want people to keep buying new machines, so that’s how they make ‘em. Ten years. Except Starbucks does six-year cycles.

I said.
Why’s that?

He shrugged.
That’s just how they like to do it.

What does Starbucks do with them after six years?
I asked.

He grinned.
They dump ‘em.

I said.

Yep. They dump ‘em. No resale whatsoever. They don’t want anybody getting ahold of their tech. They’re very protective of their drinks and machines. Six years and they dump ‘em.

Do they use the same manufacturer for all their machines?
I asked.

Oh yeah.
He said.
A little Swiss company makes ‘em all. Thermoplan AG.

It seems like you’re enjoying your work? Is that an accurate observation?
I asked, watching as he torqued a wrench around an unnamed part.

Oh yeah.
He said.
I love it. I have an Associates in Computer Networking. I hate working on computers though. I love working on these. When a computer goes out, hard drive or whatever, people are upset. When an espresso machine goes out, I fix it. And they’re happy.

I like to hear that.
I said.
I like to hear people who are actively doing work they enjoy.

He said, his brown-gray mustache almost dancing.
Anybody can learn the mechanical part. I mean, you have to have a good mind for mechanics, but anybody can learn that part. You gotta love MORE than mechanics to work on these, you gotta love coffee. I love doing this. Been doing it twelve years.

Is it generally more of a mechanical issue or more of an electronic one?
I asked.

He said.
Ninety-seven percent of the time it’s mechanical. Heating element, something like that. Once in a while it’s something on the circuit board - I mean there’s some high tech stuff going on in espresso machines these days. But usually mechanical.

I said,
I’ll let you get back to focusing on fixing that. Thanks!

No problem,
He said, his hands continuing their mechanical ballet.
No problem. Enjoy your coffee.

I will.
I said.
And thanks for helping keep it coming.


*not his name, but close