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 Technology...

December 12, 2017

Research Sheds Light on How to Manage Plant Stress With High-Tech Imagery

An innovative system developed by Chinese researchers uses rapid imagery to indicate plant health, enabling growers to respond quickly and automatically to plant stress.

Read More
ISO-Group-Transplanter-feature

December 11, 2017

Evaluating Robotic Transplanters for Plant Cuttings

There are several factors that might affect your decision to invest in transplant robots, based on initial observations and reported information about available equipment.

Read More
Overhead-irrigation-to-maintain-moisture-content-feature

December 10, 2017

Greens Production Goes High-Tech at lēf Farms

A Finland-based company has developed two new automatic growing systems for lettuce heads and baby leaf lettuce. Learn how one grower is making it work for them.

Read More
Latest Stories

December 12, 2017

Research Sheds Light on How to Manage Plant Stress With…

An innovative system developed by Chinese researchers uses rapid imagery to indicate plant health, enabling growers to respond quickly and automatically to plant stress.

Read More
ISO-Group-Transplanter-feature

December 11, 2017

Evaluating Robotic Transplanters for Plant Cuttings

There are several factors that might affect your decision to invest in transplant robots, based on initial observations and reported information about available equipment.

Read More
Overhead-irrigation-to-maintain-moisture-content-feature

December 10, 2017

Greens Production Goes High-Tech at lēf Farms

A Finland-based company has developed two new automatic growing systems for lettuce heads and baby leaf lettuce. Learn how one grower is making it work for them.

Read More
Monitoring the plant canopy for temperature

December 9, 2017

Infrared Thermometers for Monitoring Plant and Substra…

Growers use many tools to monitor the greenhouse environment. Learn about the best practices for using an infrared thermometer to measuring plant temperature.

Read More
Low-Cost-Build-Your-Own-Irrigation-Sensors-feature

December 4, 2017

Nine Things You Need to Know About Irrigation Sensors

Knowing the amount of water in your soil can help you better manage irrigation, leading to water savings and a stronger bottom line.

Read More
Hanging-Basket-Watering-System-WaterPulse-feature

December 2, 2017

15 Tools That Can Help You Maximize Water Quality and E…

New advancements in water management and irrigation are making it easier for you to manage your water use. Here’s a look at some of the latest offerings from leading suppliers, and how you can best incorporate them into your greenhouse.

Read More
Svensson-Deco-Harmony-Screens

November 23, 2017

Climate Screens Offer Both Form and Functional Benefits

Svensson’s new line of Deco Harmony screens is designed to create better growing conditions for plants on display at retail, while enhancing the customer experience.

Read More
Valtl-Raffeiner-with-Mayer-Potting-Machine

November 18, 2017

Mayer Celebrating 50th Anniversary of its Potting Machi…

Today, the company’s line of automatic potting machines and other technology is being used by growers around the world.

Read More

November 15, 2017

Greenhouse Short Course in March 2018 Features Focus on…

The Greenhouse Crop Production & Engineering Design Short Course, which takes place at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center (CEAC), includes three full days of educational sessions, one day of hands-on training workshops at CEAC, and a commercial Arizona greenhouse tour.

Read More
Smart-Magenta-Greenhouse

November 14, 2017

Smart Solar Greenhouses Designed to Generate Energy and…

Research at the University of California Santa Cruz has shown that the first crops of tomatoes and cucumbers grown inside electricity-generating solar greenhouses are as healthy as those raised in conventional greenhouses.

Read More

November 1, 2017

Gamechanger: How Artificial Intelligence Works in the G…

Artificial intelligence may not be taking over the world yet, but it could make a difference in the greenhouse by helping growers do their jobs more efficiently.

Read More
Fluence Bioengineering red lettuce trials - feature

October 30, 2017

Solving Greenhouse Lighting Issues With New Research an…

Changing out your lighting system isn’t quite as easy as replacing a light bulb, but you’ll find the process a lot smoother with this advice from lighting manufacturers and researchers.

Read More
Rough Brothers HopsHouse

October 18, 2017

New Greenhouse Aimed at Hydroponic Hops Producers

The new greenhouse model is the first single-solution hydroponic greenhouse for year-round hops growth, and harvests anywhere from two to five times a year.

Read More
Seville Production Line

October 17, 2017

Production Technology Conference Tour Attendees See Tec…

AmericanHort’s Production Technology Conference in Dallas, TX, kicked off on Monday, Oct. 10, with a tour of three local production facilities.

Read More
TTA PackPlanter S-2

October 16, 2017

TTA Introduces New Transplanter Suited for Smaller Grow…

The PackPlanter S has 16 grippers and a capacity of 10,000 to 20,000 plugs per hour in a small frame.

Read More
GVZ Glasshouses

October 12, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More
1B Filling trays for Transplanting Feature

October 9, 2017

Maximize Your Labor Efficiency When Sticking Plant Cut…

Transplanting unrooted cuttings into trays is one of the most labor-intensive activities in greenhouse production.

Read More
AgriNomix

October 8, 2017

Greenhouse Equipment Supplier AgriNomix is Expanding

In an effort to keep up with demand from growers venturing into automation, the company is adding almost 20,000 square feet of warehouses and offices.

Read More