Stress in My Workplace

A couple of weeks ago I was cooling a batch of Nicaraguan Organic when I heard a loud CLUNK! come from my coffee roaster (the Probat L12 pictured above), I ran into the roasting room from my office to discover that the main drive wheel in the back of the machine, also known as the "idler wheel," had snapped off at its shaft where it connects to the machine's body. I knew what had happened before I looked because it had happened before back when we first moved into our current location about three years ago.

A call to Probat down in Tennessee, an overnight package, $180 and a few hours of tricky labor and we were back up and running. 

The machine was making a particular rhythmic throbbing sound just before the part snapped, and after the repair it is still making a similar sound. I am waiting -- half-expecting it to snap off again at any second. I am under a kind of stress that I've never been under in over 15 years of coffee roasting, and it's taking a physical toll.

My knees hurt, especially the left one that I injured an unfortunate butterfly accident*, and my left arm is sore from the shoulder to the elbow, I keep noticing that the back of my neck is sweating when the temperature in my office is cool and comfortable. No, I am not having a heart attack, I know exactly what those feel like, having had a mild one back in 2003. I can't continue like this, but I am very busy and can't afford another day of tearing the roaster apart again. But that is what I must do.

The machine was built back in 1994 and has thousands of hours of roasting time on it (a very conservative estimate is around 25,000 hours), but I worked on another Probat once that was over 75 years old at the time and it is still in operating condition. I can only assume that when we did the repair we didn't do it right. If that shaft is out of alignment by just a tiny amount it could cause another failure.

I can't live with this stress and I have to do something about it. I only hope that when I'm done re-repairing her, she'll be back in top shape and ready to carry me through the next 15 years. She has to, a new machine would run me somewhere around $20,000. She is the heart of my business and I need her!

* the unfortunate butterfly accident: was running out of my office to rescue a batch that was about to get too dark, when my left foot was planted I caught flying movement out of the corner of my left eye -- something that shouldn't happen inside -- I shifted my weight to quickly go the opposite direction and wound up straining it a bit. I thought initially that it might be a bird or a bat. Nope, it was a butterfly.

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