‘In search of innovation worldwide.’
A steady stream of jazz trickles from a beautifully designed loudspeaker in the sparsely furnished office. ‘No, it’s functional,’ says out the sporty-looking guy in the blue-and-white striped shirt, correcting me. ‘I’m a technician, not a monk.’ He speaks the way he thinks: fast, logically, to the point. At first glance, the unremarkable – sorry, functional – space does not appear to be a centre of innovation. But the absence of 007’s Q or Captain Kirk’s Scotty is deceptive. For this is the nerve centre of automatic machine technology: the place where all the strings come together. And the man in the shirt is the one who pulls them. ’We don’t just develop the technology and the intelligence that go into automatic machines but everything else, too: interfaces, peripherals, production and final testing systems, laboratory setups and service software.’ A mammoth task handled by 70 (!) engineers and innovative minds. The specialists work in Switzerland, Estonia, Poland and Malaysia. ‘We’re all passionate about what we do, and anyone who joins us tends to stick around for a while. That’s the reason we refer to guys who’ve been here for less than ten years as novices.’ He grins. ‘But seriously: it’s the right mix of people with years of experience at JURA and the young bloods that makes the difference. We’re all hungry. Hungry for innovation. We don’t sit around in the office twiddling our thumbs and waiting for innovation to knock at the door. We get out there and hunt it down. That’s why we have an international network. Our team speaks 15 languages.’ Actually, it’s 16. Because they all have one language in common: a love of coffee. Only because of that is it possible to develop new products at ever shorter intervals. Asked how they maintain the high pace of innovation, our string-puller responds as fast as lightning: ‘We’re incredibly efficient. Everyone here works hard. And that includes the boss.’
‘Smartphone apps are becoming more and more important.’
In the stairwell, an attractive blonde in her late twenties, wearing a two-piece suit, strokes a long strand of hair out of her face and runs her fingers across the screen of her mobile, typing in a message while the staccato of her heels echoes from the concrete. The holder of a doctorate in information technology, she works with her team to develop the user interfaces and operating elements of the future. For her, one thing is clear: in the years ahead, we will be using our smartphones more and more to operate and communicate with a vast array of devices. ‘Even now, JURA apps are bringing programming, statistics and operations to the smartphone,’ she explains. As if to prove her point, she opens up the JURA Coffee app on her iPhone. ‘But that’s just the start. We’re already working on versions that continuously monitor device parameters and inform users via their mobiles. When a filter needs changing, for instance. Of course, we can also imagine having an automated electronic customer service that can provide advice when things aren’t working as expected. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.’ The aim is clear: the most intelligent automatic machine possible for maximum user-friendliness, simplicity and ‘of course, the uninterrupted enjoyment of coffee at the very highest level.’ Having said that, she enters a code into the keypad for the security door, winks coquettishly and disappears.
‘Part of me lives in four million automatic machines.’
From an office at the end of the corridor, a computer screen casts a pale, flickering light onto the dark carpet. Sitting at the computer is a giant of a man, mid-thirties perhaps, medium-long, slightly wavy hair, five-day beard, headset and feet tapping impatiently in brash-coloured sports shoes. He doesn’t turn to greet his visitors: he remains focused and follows – simultaneously, it seems – the four windows on his screen. On the first we see an American blockbuster while, every second or so, the next screen runs headlines he obviously doesn’t want to miss from all over the world. The third screen is full of Cyrillic letters – a chat with a Russian workmate, it appears – and the fourth seems to be the window he is working on. He feeds in programming code at a breathtaking pace. Now and again, without taking his eyes from the screen, he reaches for his coffee, takes a sip and puts it down again. He doesn’t wish to be photographed. He prefers to stay in the background, but whenever he sees a JURA automatic machine on television, in a store or an apartment he takes an impish glee in the knowledge that a piece of his genius in the shape of ones and zeroes is present as a program in every single machine. ‘That’s enough for me,’ he mumbles. And for a split second, a satisfied smile flashes across his lips.
‘3.8 million cups of coffee a year in the name of quality assurance.’
Twenty-four automatic machines stand perfectly marshalled, like soldiers on parade, in four rows on the testing benches in the room with the door that reads: ‘Laboratory’. The aroma of coffee hangs heavy in the air. An engineer walks past every single station, meticulously inspecting hundreds of figures on the screens and, blinking somewhat short-sightedly, makes his notes. Whistling some catchy melody, he more or less succeeds in blanking out the noise of grinders and pumps and the hissing of steam and the pneumatic components on the testing devices. ‘Welcome to the torture chamber,’ he grins. ‘Here, in the space of a few short weeks, we simulate several years of operation.’ Before new components receive the green light to go into production, they have to prove themselves under the toughest conditions in the laboratory. Random samples from series production regularly end up on the testing bench as part of our policy for guaranteeing perfect quality. ‘For the quality assurance fatigue tests, we need 30 tons of coffee a year. We use it to make about four million cups,’ he says, working it out. All the coffee used comes from our in-house roasting plant. It’s stored in containers as big as chest-type freezers and conveyed through pipes to the test stations. Fully automatically, needless to say. And what do you do with 30 tons of coffee grounds? ‘Ecologically speaking, our automatic machines are the best choice available because they don’t produce any waste. Only coffee grounds, and they are one hundred percent compostable. They go directly from our labs to a composting plant, where they are integrated into the fertilizers used in gardening and agriculture,’ says the tester, but lets us in on a secret: he spreads the grounds from the machine he has in his kitchen at home around the roses in his garden. ‘There’s nothing better for flowers,’ he states emphatically.