MIT Students improving Mkaa Mkombozi production process at our new briquette factory

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A word from the students…

During the first three weeks of 2015 (5-23th Jan), a group of students from Boston (Neha, Nadia, Stephanie and Francisco) coming from Wellesley College and MIT Sloan, decided to postpone their holidays and come working with ARTI Energy in Dar es Salaam. Our mission was to improve the Mkaa Mkombozi charcoal briquettes production process. With this initiative, ARTI Energy through its charcoal briquette business (Charcoal Briquette Tanzania Ltd) aims to create a sustainable business model, which can contribute to reduce deforestation in Tanzania. The current production is ~800 kg/ day and our goal was to reach 2.000 kg/ day. The challenge was set!

From right to left, bottom to top: Manon, Potnis, Francisco, Nicole, Neha, Allan, Neha and Stephanie

MIT students and ARTI’s team                                                                                                                                                                         From right to left, bottom to top: Manon, Potnis, Francisco, Nicole, Neha, Allan, Neha and Stephanie


In the first two weeks of the project, we focused on understanding and measuring the current production process. Thanks to the interviews and production monitoring, we were able to develop a deep understanding of the process and a detailed diagnostic of the main production bottlenecks. In addition, we started brainstorming around potential solutions to improve productivity and the issues identified.
During the last week, we developed the final recommendations together with Allan (factory manager) and all the workers. Together, we defined the top priority actions that can help the factory reaching its production goal. Some of these recommendations were operative and easy to implement (e.g. worker schedules optimization) while others require additional investment (e.g. drying system capacity sizing). Moreover, we also launched a quality test to identify the optimal product characteristic (e.g. moisture content) and reduce production variability. With all these recommendations, we are confident that the factory can reach 2.000 kg/ day of Mkaa Mkombozi charcoal briquettes.

In conclusion, during these weeks we had the chance to put into practice our knowledge and competences in a real working experience improving the charcoal briquette prodution performance. We all had an amazing learning experience. In addition, we were able to the see real impact of our work. For instance, the last day before leaving, we implemented some of the proposed recommendations reaching +1.100 kg/ day. Finally, we would like to thank all the people that has helped us during this experience. Especially, we would like to mention all ARTI Energy workers and team (Manon, Dennis, Potnis, Allan, etc.) who have always been helpful and kind. We are looking forward to working with you again! In addition, also thanks to the Sloan Entrepreneurs for Innovational Development (SEID) club, who offered us this amazing opportunity.

Nadia, Neha, Stephanie and Francisco