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TCHO chocolate controls their factory by using an application on Iphone. I find this super cool. What do you guys think? I wonder how much money did TCHO pay to get this app designed for them. Check out the video.


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What I find fascinating about this is that they invested a boatload of money on projects like this one that were not on the critical path of actually making chocolate. Despite what they may say, they are not making chocolate - bean-to-bar in the factory.

So, while it may be cool, what's the point?

Sometimes geeking out is just good for the soul. ;)  I remember talking to Cook early on and all their DIY gear they were making.  It's one reason I was so endeared to them being a tech-rat myself.  While they may not bean-to-bar in one factory, as I understand it they still have control from the start to the finish across a number of locations/regions.
I was in San Francisco and visited their shop. I peeked into an area, which I figured was a production facility, only to find a huge empty room w/ a few cars parked inside. A chocolatier in Berkeley told me they're using a chocolate liquor to make their bars and not producing it in house. I do, however, like the images I've seen of their scrappy small-batch lab. I'm just wondering why some trusted person can't be hired to operate the machinery, if the owner is always away from the plant?

I am not sure to what extent we can rely on an application like this and I do not know if its cost is worth it, however, I think the point is more control over your machines. When you have lots of machine to operate, it's useful to have a look at them in one organised screen. For example, instead of walking around checking the temperature of each tank, you can instead be in one place. How much time will this save you? The principle is similar to installing cameras in your factory. You can even make sure everything is under control while having dinner at home with friends. Instead of hiring someone, I'd rather save my money. How many times did anyone of us forget the lights of his kitchen on?



Did you see the writeup/video on the app on the Apple site? Like many aspects of the Tcho story, I think there's a little misdirection going on here.

Timothy talks about automating the lab - which is all small-scale machinery. That I've seen.

To the best of my knowledge, the only machinery in the actual factory that is controlled remotely by iPhone is the depositor. As they don't roast/winnow on the Pier any intimation that they're controlling the entire process, bean to bar, on Pier 17 is misleading at best.

For 3 years now, Choklat has been run exclusively using a web application written in HTML/Javascript/ASP and SQL Server.  The benefit of this is that I can be travelling anywhere in the world (or playing in the mountains), and can be in complete control of my business.


It is ultimate freedom, but at a price.  As a software engineer turned chocolatier, I wrote the software myself, so there were no out of pocket expenses.  If I were to bill my time for the system, it would have been close to $100,000 based on my standard bill rate multiplied by the number of hours it took me to design, write, and test the software.


Hope this answers some questions.



Brad -

A bit of confusion, perhaps. You wrote this software to run your business (i.e., a customized ERP program that does inventory, POS, etc.). Does it also control the machinery? That's the question I think Mark is responding to below and the interest of Omar, the OP.

From previous comments you've made about the value of investing in high-tech equipment on the manufacturing side (e.g., digital probes in roasters), my guess is that your application is strictly a management application, not a process control application.

Sorry for the confusion.  My software does NOT control the equipment.  Yes Clay, it is strictly POS / Management / Decision Support software.


While it is feasible to invest in the equipment to process batch-style chocolate, from an artisinal standpoint it doesn't make economic sense (at least in my opinion).  The central control panel, custom software, hoppers, tanks, loaders, piping, pumps, servo motors, refiners....  Wow...  BIG $$$  The break even point on a system like that would likely top the 25 year mark compared to a hired and properly trained staff member.  I bet a system like that could easily break into the 7 figure mark - very pricey considering you could hire a pretty dedicated worker bee for $60k per year, and still pocket $60k per year on the 12% interest you could get for leaving the 7 figures sitting in a decent annuity investment.


That kind of system enters the realm of competing with the Cargills & Callebauts, of the world I would say....




Hummm.... I don't know about all this.


While this may have helped you Brad, what happens if/when the machines start acting on their own? I.E. breakdowns, wrong, incorrect or fluctuation problems. Not to mention, uh, cough, who's doing and checking the roasting/winnowing/baging/grinding (pouring the beans into the machines, taking them out, pouring the nibs into the melangeur, adding all the other ingredients, conching, tempering, etc...) Really? The roast is dependent upon constant checking... 


Shawn had many problems with his tempering machine and it took a while to get it. But you know, these problems happen all the time.


We are talking about machines here...


Tcho seems to be run by nice guys but, really? Apps? Come on, give me a break. Chocolate making is an art as well as science, dependent upon many factors that take A REAL LIVE PERSON during all aspects.


I'd be interested in hearing how this actually works out.

Saw the video Clay. I also noticed a huge moulding machine in the link I posted. In any case,  I would never rely on my Iphone to mould ridiculous amount of chocolate, Without having the human eye/tongue checking the end product. Price aside, i think it would be useful to operate SOME machineries i.e: temperatures on tanks, cameras, lights, tempering machine...Leave the rest to us humans.

Now that Brad unfolded the wraps on the cost of such project, I find it ridiculous to invest in such a thing. My god! 7 figures?! I'd rather hire exotic scandinavian models to operate my factory. Hahaha!

Thanks guys!



Omar - this beer company are ahead of you in that idea, check out this:


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