Boost Greenhouse Productivity Using Manufacturing Systems

Manufacturing and wholesale growing have a lot in common. Agriculture is a unique industry. It takes a devoted person who is prepared to work long hours, often for little pay. The reward is often the lifestyle, and the satisfaction of transforming a seed into a beautiful plant. Manufacturing also requires a devoted person, working long hours, often for little pay. At the end of the day, it is the satisfaction of building something new and helping our customers that keeps us going.

Over the last decade, manufacturers have been bombarded with new efficiency systems: Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, Continuous improvement, Kanban, the 5S System, Kaizen, etc. This is especially true in North America where increased efficiencies are needed to compete against low-cost labor off shore.

But interestingly enough, these systems do not often get considered by the wholesale greenhouse grower. So here are five ideas borrowed from manufacturing that can be used to boost productivity in the greenhouse.

1. Reward Small Failures

Remember, if your employees are afraid to fail, they will be afraid to try. Productivity is a process, so treat it like one. Allow your team to try small experiments for boosting output. Establish rewards for both victories and failures.

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” Michael Jordan famously said. “I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

2. Reward Efficiency

On a recent tour of an advanced manufacturing factory in Toronto, the VP of Operations reviewed his Kanban whiteboards with me. They posted the hourly target for the line, and the line supervisor marked how many units were finished each hour. The goal was to produce exactly the target for each hour, not less, but also not more. Too much production meant excess finished goods inventory, a “no-no” in lean manufacturing. For a wholesale grower with a perishable finished goods inventory, this is a key point. Structure rewards that value efficiency.

3. Train The Trainers

First, model the behavior you want. Then, train your greenhouse supervisors to implement best practices quickly. Spend money and time investing in their training, but don’t stop there. Reward your leaders for achieving milestones. The culture of a company depends on all the leaders being on the same team, if you want an environment focused on improvements in productivity, everyone needs to be thinking about where and how they can improve productivity.

4. Reward Partnerships

When I was in University, I interviewed for a job at a large electrical supply company.  Applicants were given a mini-booklet that explained the company. It started by saying “The customer comes first,” then it defined customer: “A person or organization we depend on to do business.”

On the next page it broke that definition out further. “Our customer is our customer. We depend on them to buy our products. Our supplier is our customer. We depend on them to provide quality products. Our employee is our customer. We depend on them to do the work. Our bank is our customer. We depend on them to supply the money.”

You get the idea. Work with all your stakeholders to garner ideas and implement improvements. And recognize their contributions with endorsements, customer referals, a heartfelt thank you note, a bottle of wine or a beautiful floral arrangement.

5. Reward Outcomes

Finally, remember the end game. Identify tangible, measurable goals before embarking on any productivity-boosting campaign. Assign leaders to implement the plan and then get prepared to reward achievements. In the process, workers will come to see that performance isn’t just a corporate mandate but a shared goal that comes with shared rewards.

When it comes to process flow, there are many similarities between the manufacturing of goods and plant production in a greenhouse. Think about how you can put these five ideas to work in your own greenhouse business.

Leave a Reply

More From Structures & Equipment...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Growers are looking for low-cost options for temperature control, like circulating fans and exhaust fans.

April 10, 2015

New Ways To Give Growers Control Of The Greenhouse Envi…

From heating systems to circulation fans, manufacturing companies are finding new ways to help growers control the greenhouse environment, save on energy costs and streamline production.

Read More
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environme…

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More

March 16, 2015

Cozy Acres Greenhouses: Operating With Zero Emissions

With the help of federal funding, Cozy Acres Greenhouses was able to take a greener approach to its latest expansion, building a zero emissions greenhouse that operates year round.

Read More
interior view EDDG vent_energy efficiency codes

March 16, 2015

Stricter Energy Codes May Impact Your Ability To Expan…

Energy efficiency building codes that greenhouses are required to meet could soon be much more stringent, unless the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association is successful in its bid to gain exceptions on greenhouse owners’ behalf.

Read More
NorthCreekGreenhouse_midmarch15

March 13, 2015

GGS Helps North Creek Nurseries Take Efficiency To A Ne…

North Creek Nurseries recently built a new GGS gutter connected poly greenhouse range with the intent of saving energy and implementing Lean Flow Practices. The aim was to help North Creek improve the quality of products and meet increased customer demand, while at the same time saving money on labor.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

Energy Audit Resources To Reduce Energy Costs In The Gr…

One way to reduce energy-related costs in the greenhouse is to conduct self-audits on a regular basis. These energy audits allow growers to identify potential savings by checking various production systems. To ensure your operation is running efficiently, check out these resources for help with your energy audit.

Read More
Retail Greenhouse

March 12, 2015

The Right Greenhouse For Any Grower

Selecting the right structure for your operation can be difficult. With so many options, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The good news is that greenhouse manufacturers are experienced in the art of matching customers with the ideal product. Here’s their advice for how to pick your next structure.

Read More
Fall Creek Farm and Nursery Expansion

March 12, 2015

Conley’s Helps Fall Creek Farm And Nursery Increase Blu…

In order to meet its customer’s increasing demands for domestic blueberry production in the United States, Fall Creek Farm and Nursery needed much more indoor growing space. The company selected Conley’s for a recent expansion of Conley’s Gable Series 7500 in a two-phase project. The first 14-greenhouse range sold by distributor Horticulture Services, measures 170,000 square feet in size and finished construction in 2013.

Read More
Emerald Coast Grower's Atlas Greenhouse

March 12, 2015

Emerald Coast Growers Steps-Up Production Efficiency An…

Emerald Coast Growers, a supplier of perennial starter plants and ornamental grass liners, is not averse to expansion projects. In 2010, it celebrated its 20th anniversary with an expansion of its perennial production space. More recently, the company has been in a nearly continuous phase of construction and improvement projects.

Read More
ArmstrongGrowers Hanging Basket Area

March 12, 2015

Armstrong Growers And Pike Farms Grow With Sustainable …

Rebuilding and retrofitting greenhouses has been key to Armstrong Growers’ expansion on the West Coast, and Pike Farms will follow the same business model on the East Coast. The four-acre wholesale operation that is currently Pike Farms produces only about 5 percent at the most of Pike Nurseries’ retail garden center needs; however, that’s going to change in the next couple of years.

Read More
Metrolina Greenhouses Loading-Dock

March 12, 2015

Metrolina Greenhouses Expands With High- And Low-Tech …

Heralded as one of the most automated greenhouse operations in the U.S., Metrolina Greenhouses continues to build in Huntersville, N.C., and York, S.C. Art Van Wingerden, chief operating officer and co-owner of Metrolina Greenhouses, estimates that as his big box customers continue to grow at a 3 to 5 percent rate, so will Metrolina Greenhouses’ growing facilities to keep up with demand.

Read More
Polyarch Berns

March 12, 2015

The Energy Efficient Greenhouse

New coverings technology means today’s films, plastics, shade cloths and climate screens slash heating and cooling costs while improving crop productivity year round. We checked with manufacturers to see what’s new and uncovered some best practices for buttoning up your greenhouse. Here’s what you need to know about the latest trends.

Read More
FormFlex_MTZ Hanging Basket

March 11, 2015

4 New Ways To Automate Your Operation

These new automation products can help streamline labor-intensive tasks, saving time and labor and increasing productivity.

Read More
GrowCo_greenhouses

March 10, 2015

Greenhouses Are More Efficient For Marijuana Production

At least 30 percent more efficient and productive than warehouse growing, greenhouses are the way of the future for commercial cannabis production, experts say. Cannabis growers and advisors are starting to move production out of the warehouse and into the greenhouse, to benefit from the efficiencies that the sun’s natural light and environmental controls provide.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens New Expansion

March 10, 2015

Pleasant View Gardens Transitions Old-School Hoop Hous…

A new production expansion optimizes labor efficiency and adds growing space, while optimizing energy use.

Read More
Outfitting Your Greenhouse

February 24, 2015

Save Energy With The Right Greenhouse Glazing

The glazing you choose can make a big difference in your energy bill and the uniformity of your crops.

Read More
Rough Brothers aeroponic greenhouse project

February 24, 2015

Rough Brothers Takes A Hands-On Approach To Several Pro…

Two projects Rough Brothers worked on for Altman plants in Giddings, Texas, and Scissortail Farms in Tulsa County, Okla., show that pre-planning on the grower's part opens the way for a smooth-running expansion project.

Read More
Michigan State University Extension

February 24, 2015

Ethylene From Defective Greenhouse Heaters Damages Crop…

Malfunctioning greenhouse heaters can lead to crop damage from ethylene and carbon monoxide induced illness for workers. Michigan State University's Extension educators Tom Dudek and Randy Beaudry teach you how to recognize the symptoms and check greenhouse heaters to avoid the concern.

Read More