What I learned from a trip to Nicaragua …
Sunday I returned from a trip to Esteli, Nicaragua. I went there to tour the Perdomo Cigar plantation and cigar factory. The tour was amazing, and what I learned about tobacco; everything from the growth and harvesting to the drying and curing to the rolling of cigars; was all fantastic. I cannot believe the amount of work that goes into each cigar that I smoke.
However; being a process person, it made me think that there must be a better way to grow tobacco and make cigars. Oh, I’m not talking about automating the rolling of the cigars, as nothing beats a good hand-rolled cigar; but the process could be improved, even though it much of it is a manual process.
Let me explain. I have heard it said that each tobacco leaf is touched a minimum of 300 times before it ends up in the hands of the consumer in the form of a cigar. After seeing the process, I think this may be an understatement. It is touched, and moved, and stacked, and piled, and moved, etc. The entire process is crazy! What is even more crazy is that there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the layout of the buildings or the flow within some of the buildings.
I think that there is much we could learn from my tour of the cigar manufacturing process. As you evaluate your own processes consider the following:
1) We need to look for ways to minimize touches. Take a look at the times that you have to pick something up or move it, what can be done to reduce this?
2) We need to look for better flow from start to finish. Review the process flow. Is your space laid out to maximize production by minimizing steps?
3) We need to determine if automation can help. Are there parts of the process that automation can help to improve without affecting the final outcome?
I can’t help to think that this same factory in Nicaragua that makes 10,000,000 hand rolled cigars a year could increase production to over 15,000,000 a year just by simplifying some of the process and automating other parts; while holding to the hand-rolled standard that makes the Perdomo Cigar a great smoke time-after-time.