Waste Watchers

The annual Seeley Conference is designed to promote discussion of issues important to the future of commercial floriculture. And from the words of the first speaker – “Nobody’s making the money they should” – it was clear that this year’s conference was all about the bottom line.

In fact, the theme of the twenty-second annual Seeley Conference was “Profit Squeeze – Is There A Solution?” Conference organizers posed the question: “Will the industry’s profit squeeze be overcome through innovative approaches resulting in less costly operations, by improving the value of our products or both?”

A possible answer to that question is one of the more talked-about subjects in the greenhouse industry today: Lean Horticulture, and this year’s meeting focused in large part on just that idea. The Lean philosophy was presented and discussed from the perspective of bankers, grocery chain buyers, traditional retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers and growers.

What Lean Means

As the conference proceeded, reactions from attendees toward the idea ranged from skepticism to intense interest. One thing that was pretty clear from beginning, however – dropping into the middle of a discussion about Lean techniques can be a confusing experience for the uninitiated. Lean has a language all its own, with practitioners tossing around words like “Kaizen,” Kanban” and “Takt” (see Speak The Language sidebar). Broken down to its most basic form, though, the concept of Lean Horticulture is pretty much just common sense to anyone in the business: It’s all about your customer. The Lean philosophy says that a company should define value from the viewpoint of the customer and eliminate or reduce everything else. If a customer is willing to pay you for something, it has value. Anything they don’t want to pay for is, by definition, waste.

Some “waste” – costs that go into overhead, transportation, salaries, etc. – is necessary, of course, and can’t be eliminated. On the other hand, variables such as overproduction, excess inventory, extra motion or unnecessary product handling are considered “pure waste” and should be eliminated from the process, since they don’t contribute to what the customer ultimately wants.

Businesses implementing a Lean program identify an area with waste and go through an intensive, hands-on process to find ways to reduce or eliminate the excess motion, effort, time or expense. 

The People Factor

The real benefit of Lean, said proponents, is not the immediate cost savings. Rather, it’s teaching people to think differently and training them to look for new ideas. Changing people, however, is harder than changing process, they pointed out.

From firsthand experience, many of the growers at the conference explained that a common fear from employees asked to participate in a Lean program is that their jobs are in danger. And, indeed, one of the bottom-line benefits of the process is finding efficiencies in a specific procedure and, often, becoming more productive with fewer people. However, most speakers reported that by becoming more efficient, they were able to free up workers for other tasks, and cross-train them for new jobs, making the entire operation even more flexible. And ideally, if you train people well enough, they will self-manage a lot more. “You’ll still need a supervisor to keep the plates spinning,” said one grower, “but the need to micromanage everything is greatly reduced.”

Reading List

Looking for more information on the Lean Manufacturing concept? Check out these titles available on the Web and through many national bookstore chains:
The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox
Lean Thinking by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
The Machine That Changed The World: The Story Of Lean Production by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos
All I Need To Know About Manufacturing I Learned in Joe’s Garage by William B. Miller and Vicki L. Schenk

Perpetual Progress

A common mindset in business is to view everything as a project with a beginning, middle and end. That’s a fatal mistake for anyone trying to implement Lean said many of its practitioners. “Lean never ends,” emphasized more than one speaker. The idea is that this commitment to a Lean culture in your business requires that you continuously look for ways to streamline your business, providing more value and less waste.

How do you make Lean sustainable over time? It needs to become part of your company culture, stressed several of the speakers. “You need a good system in place with a well-oriented, trained staff.”

Like any business management technique, Lean isn’t always implemented without a hitch. While most of the growers at the meeting who had adopted lean practices seemed more than happy with the results overall, each also spoke about challenges he faced, and suggested steps he took to avoid more problems in the future.

• Do post-mortems after instituting a change. Talk about what went right and what you can improve on the next time you go through the process.

• Don’t focus on cutting costs alone. It will make you myopic. Don’t lose sight of the fact that Lean is all about the customer.

• Be persistent, avoid backsliding and sustain change. Sacrifice the number of changes you make in order to sustain the ones you’ve already done.

• Make sure you have buy in from the top of the company. If they don’t support what you’re doing, neither will anyone else in the long run.

• Address the fence sitters. They’ll bring you down if you’re not careful.

In the end, one of the keys to success with Lean Horticulture is just getting started, they said. “You have to have a bias for action,” said one grower.

“Don’t overanalyze. Just do it,” added another speaker. “It’s a continual process. If something doesn’t work out as well as you hoped, you just start again.”

Leave a Reply

More From ...

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New Markets

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Innovation Day

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strategy

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Latest Stories

May 22, 2015

Nexus Greenhouses Is Optimistic For Expansion Into New …

Cheryl Longtin and Mike Porter, who own Nexus Corporation, say they were excited to attend the grand opening of Gotham Greens’ new structure atop the new Whole Foods grocery store in the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., when it opened in December 2013. The project is just one example of some of the new and expanding markets that Nexus Corporation has expanded into over the past few years. Jeff Warschauer, vice president of sales for Nexus, says the company has enjoyed getting to know and working with the founders of Gotham Greens, Viraj Puri and Eric Haley, and Jennifer Nelkin Frymark, the chief agriculture officer, on their innovative approach to business. “They are very excited and work hard internally – just great people,” he says. “From our perspective, it’s great to see that excitement and vision. The employees there are happy and there’s no turnover; they’re only adding new people […]

Read More
Farwest2015

May 20, 2015

2015 Farwest Show Announces Second Annual Equipment Inn…

The second annual Equipment Innovation Day will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, prior to the 2015 Farwest show, which will be August 27-29 in Portland, Ore. Equipment Innovation Day, which was enthusiastically received in 2014, offers a real-time opportunity to see new heavy and automated nursery equipment in action. The demonstrations take place in manufacturing and nursery settings, adding value to the showcase. Attendees will be able to talk with participating manufacturers and learn first-hand from innovative growers who use the equipment in daily operations. The day-long event will be held at the main manufacturing plant of GK Machines, Inc., Donald, Ore. Further demonstrations of field equipment will take place at the nearby nursery of A&R Spada Farms, LLC. Bus travel to and from the event is planned, starting at and returning to the Oregon Convention Center. Attendees are welcome to provide their own travel to and from the site. Preregistration is required. The cost […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strat…

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
r3bv2 disease

May 20, 2015

SAF And AmericanHort Ask Government To Take Ralstonia O…

The Society of American Florists (SAF) and AmericanHort want Ralstonia solanacearum, Race 3, Biovar 2 (R3Bv2) taken off a list of animal and plant diseases that the federal government has determined could be misused as terrorist weapons. SAF and AmericanHort submitted formal comments together on the horticulture industry’s science-backed position on the matter. According to Lin Schmale, SAF’s senior director of government relations, extensive research has proven R3Bv2 does not belong on the government’s list of animal and plant diseases that can be misused as terrorist weapons. Every two years, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requests a public review of the Select Agent list, asking for comments on whether plant or animal diseases should be taken off the current list or added to it. In the floral industry, R3Bv2 can have a devastating impact on geranium (pelargonium) crops, Schmale says, and both the potato and tomato industries also could be adversely affected by introduction […]

Read More
Amy Daniel with daughters

May 20, 2015

Fall Creek Farm & Nursery’s Amy Daniel Suppor…

Amy Daniel, marketing and brand manager at Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, has a passion for marketing and branding that led her into the green industry early in her career, when she and a friend started their own agency, and she began helping her parents — then owners of a retail nursery — with marketing services. Daniel’s career in the field started in the 1980s, after she finished college with degrees in journalism and advertising. It wasn’t long before she began to feel frustrated with the status quo in the industry. She and a friend from college, agreeing there was a better way to do things, decided to start a business. “I guess now looking back, we were probably young and naive, but it all worked out really well,” Daniel says. “We started our own advertising agency/marketing and PR firm. I ran that for two decades. It was very successful.” […]

Read More
CCGGA-Scholarship-Winners

May 20, 2015

Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association Awards 201…

The Central Coast Greenhouse Growers Association (CCGGA) is awarding 20 scholarships this year to high school and college students. CCGGA-member nurseries raised money for the scholarship fund and each donated a portion of the fundraising sales to the fund, which is open to students currently enrolled in college for the following year. The scholarship program is also available to students of employees who work at CCGGA-member nurseries One of the organization’s goals is to continue encouraging future generations to enter the horticulture field and to promote higher education within the families that work in the local nursery business. The 2015 CCGGA scholarship recipients are: Aloysia Shea – Nipomo High School Andrew McHaney – CSalinas High School Angel Flores – Righetti High School Beatriz Barajas – San Jose State University Carolanne Garibay – Monterey Peninsula College Cladia Lavina – Salinas High School Erica Marquez-Ibarra – San Jose State University Jorge Zarate […]

Read More
Tomato 'Think Pink' (Sakata Vegetables)

May 18, 2015

3 Questions To Ask Before Purchasing A Digital Food Saf…

If you're thinking about moving from a paper system to a digital system for food safety recordkeeping, asking yourself these three questions will help you decide what type of system you want and what is actually needed.

Read More
Two-spotted spider mites, adults and eggs

May 18, 2015

Beware Of Spider Mites In Bougainvillea And Mandevilla …

Greenhouse growers need to scout for spider mites on bougainvillea and mandevilla and use appropriate treatments that minimize pesticide resistance.

Read More

May 18, 2015

Download Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Top 100 Growers…

Greenhouse Grower‘s Top 100 Growers Survey revealed that our projections in the 2015 State Of The Industry report were correct: Growers, at least the large ones, are expanding. Greenhouse Grower’s annual Top 100 List ranks the largest U.S. growers by total square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse space, although this year, we have also listed shade and field acreage, to give perspective on how large these operations are beyond the greenhouse. In total, the 2015 list represents 228,906,001 environmentally controlled square feet of U.S. production, a 5 percent increase over 2014. All told, 26 growers reported that their operation grew between 2014 and 2015. Several growers reduced their production over the past year, as well, and while some operations’ downsized numbers were significant, most were slight and probably typical of the give-and-take in the horticulture industry. Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Top 100 Growers Whitepaper includes all the results of the survey, […]

Read More
Allan Armitage At Tradeshow

May 15, 2015

Allan Armitage On Plants: We Are Alive And Well, Thank …

Allan Armitage tells why the horticulture industry is about the people, not the plants, not the marketing and not the social media, and why horticulture is here to stay.

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
Vegetables with knife

May 14, 2015

Keeping Your Fruits And Vegetables Safe: Best Practices…

Part three of the food safety series focuses on worker hygiene, visitor policies and other biosecurity measures to safeguard the greenhouse.

Read More
CrownBees_Blue-Orchard-Bee-Female_Artz

May 14, 2015

Pollinator Health 2015: What’s Next For Horticult…

The news on pollinators and neonicotinoids continues to fluctuate between good and bad. Research and outreach efforts backed by the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative help move the industry in a positive direction.

Read More
Janeen Wright

May 13, 2015

Don’t Let Labels Be A Limitation To Your Greenhou…

Whether you label yourself or your business as average, extraordinary or innovative, make sure that what you don’t do is let that label define who you are and what your business can become.

Read More
USDA Logo

May 13, 2015

New Report Shows College Graduates With Agriculture Deg…

A new report from the USDA shows high demand for recent college graduates with agriculture degrees, with an estimated 57,900  high-skilled job openings annually in the food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and environment fields in the U.S. According to an employment outlook report released by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Purdue University, there is an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture related fields, 22,500 short of the jobs available annually. “There is incredible opportunity for highly-skilled jobs in agriculture,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Those receiving degrees in agricultural fields can expect to have ample career opportunities. Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world’s most pressing challenges. These jobs will only become more […]

Read More
people-of-Battlefield

May 13, 2015

Battlefield Farms Receives MPS-A Qualification

Battlefield Farms, Inc., in Rapidan, Va., has been awarded the MPS-A qualification after becoming a participant for MPS-ABC in 2010. After four years of showing effort and improvement, the company has been awarded the qualification.

Read More
empress-intrinsic-brand-fungicide

May 13, 2015

BASF’s Empress Intrinsic Fungicide Is Approved Fo…

BASF’s Empress Intrinsic brand fungicide received supplemental labeling, providing California growers with an effective drench fungicide for disease control and plant health. The supplemental labeling is for use on herbaceous and woody plants in greenhouse, nursery container and field production in California. Empress Intrinsic fungicide provides protection against the four major root and crown disease pathogens: fusarium, phytophthora, pythium and rhizoctonia. Research shows Intrinsic fungicides control the broadest range of ornamental diseases while improving plant resilience to quality and reducing stresses that commonly occur during commercial production, handling and transportation. “More and more growers across the country are discovering the benefits of Empress Intrinisic brand fungicide treatments at propagation for rooted plugs, cuttings and seedlings, and in drench applications on transplants during the production cycle to protect against the major root diseases,“ says Joe Lara, senior product manager for BASF ornamentals. “A BASF fungicide program utilizing Pageant Intrinsic and Empress Intrinsic […]

Read More
Amanda and Janeen

May 12, 2015

Two Greenhouse Grower Team Members Are Promoted

Janeen Wright is now Managing Editor and Amanda Gallagher is Associate Editor / Online Editor, reflecting their hard work on Greenhouse Grower.

Read More