Gears, Guns and Geraniums

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Officers in the Los Angeles Police Department had a problem. As prisoners stood in line waiting to be booked and processed, several officers were called away from that task and spent valuable time heating dinner for inmates. It was a waste of the officers’ time and talent. This bottleneck was seen again and again at the prison’s busiest time.

Who did the LAPD go to for a solution to this problem? Car manufacturer Toyota, which in 1998 began to train its own employees in lean manufacturing. The auto manufacturer has been so successful and seen such an improvement with its new outlook on business, it has opened its Toyota University to select businesses, including the LAPD. The story was told in a March 5, 2007 article in the Wall Street Journal.

Toyota’s manufacturing process has improved because of small changes that reduce waste in time, process and material — changes as small as reorganizing the layout of warehouses. It also thinks big and encourages employees to do so, as well. At Toyota, any employee can stop the production line to fix a problem, even a small one, if it leads to a more efficient line.

Sure, the lean process uses funny words like muda (waste) and poka yoke (mistake proofing) and those tough LAPD lieutenants and officers participated in an exercise called Drum Circle Spirit at Toyota University, but successful lean processes prove big problems can be solved with small solutions. Like the idea the LAPD came up with — switching from hot food to sandwiches and apples for dinner in prisons, freeing up officers to do their jobs. 

Lean In The Greenhouse

Greenhouse Grower’s Assistant Editor Ann-Marie Conroy gives us a look at lean manufacturing this month from the eyes of horticulture. Yoder Brothers’ lean cleanup looked at production, handling and packaging processes. For D.S. Cole Growers, lean meant taking a closer look at software. For more details, flip to page 30 and for even more, including dates and locations for sessions on lean, visit our Web site at

Pack Trials Is Upon Us

It’s here. California Pack Trials runs April 14–22 at grower locations between San Jose and San Diego. I’ll be there this year with Editor Delilah Onofrey and the winners of our California Dreamin’ contest.

We’ll be scouting out nominees for our Medal of Excellence awards for breeding, the winners of which will be handed out at OFA Short Course in July.

And get ready for an exciting new addition to the awards this year–one that involves you, our readers. Look for the details in this space next month.

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