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

Latest Stories
Hydroponic radishes in plug tray

July 29, 2016

How Plug Tray Density Affects Hydroponic Radish Product…

An experiment with growing radishes in plug trays using flood and drain irrigation determines whether or not plug tray density alters yield.

Read More
Tom Conley

July 29, 2016

Conley’s Manufacturing And Sales President Thomas Conle…

Conley, a long-time member of the National Greenhouse Manufacturers Association, played a significant role in the greenhouse manufacturing business that his father founded in 1946.

Read More
Hoogendoorn and Svensson Connected Screening - feature

July 29, 2016

Connected Screening Helps You Control Your Climate

Svensson and Hoogendoorn have collaborated on a new screening software that allows full control over humidity transfer, light transmission, and energy savings.

Read More
Obscura Screens From Svensson feature

July 28, 2016

3 New Products For Cannabis Producers

From screens to fertilizers to lighting, here are three new products that might help enhance your cannabis production system.

Read More
Cannabis Structure

July 28, 2016

How To Maximize The Efficiency Of Your Cannabis Structu…

The up-front costs of creating your cannabis facility may be high, but at least one expert says making the investment now will be well worth it down the road.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

July 28, 2016

Solving The Cannabis Crop Protection Problem

A largely unregulated sector of the industry, state departments of agriculture, biocontrols companies, and other industry pros are dedicated to helping growers make the right pesticide decisions for their operations.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

How Your Retail Plant Sales Practices Compare

Editor’s note: Greenhouse Grower RETAILING asked growers and retailers to share their pricing methods in a survey sent out in mid June 2016. Of the 362 responses, 202 arefrom those whose primary business is garden retail. We will be sharing the results of what we learned throughout July, August, and September 2016.   Discounting plants is a finely wielded weapon for plant retailers, Greenhouse Grower RETAILING‘s Plant Pricing Survey shows. It will come as no surprise that just about everyone holds sales at some point (93%). And so it makes sense that some expertise is shown. Take this first graph as an example. The most perishable plants — small annuals and vegetables — are the most likely to be placed on sale. That seems counter-intuitive. Why place the fastest turning inventory on sale? But when we took a closer look, we found that these sales are being used to lure […]

Read More
IGC 2016 Valley Forge Casino Resort

July 25, 2016

New Products You Can See At EIGC

With all exhibitor booths sold out at both EIGC and IGC Chicago, there will be plenty of new products for attendees to check out.

Read More
Aphids On Older Leaves

July 25, 2016

How You Can Stop Aphids By Understanding Their Interact…

Knowing which aphids target which crops and how aphids colonize and move on plants goes a long way toward setting up an effective management plan.

Read More
Jeremy Kingsley

July 25, 2016

Cultivate Keynote Speaker Highlights Seven Principles O…

In his morning keynote address at Cultivate’16, best-selling author and speaker Jeremy Kingsley noted that if you want to make your business better, the process should start with making your people better by inspiring them.

Read More
Top 100 2016 Lighting Feature Image

July 24, 2016

Horticultural Lighting Conference To Take Place In Chic…

The one-day event is designed to provide cutting-edge information on the latest technologies and techniques impacting the advancement of the horticultural lighting market.

Read More

July 23, 2016

AmericanHort Kicks Off Cultivate’16 By Announcing Major…

Even though Cultivate’16 just wrapped up, it’s not too early to find out about the many changes you can expect for 2017.

Read More
Workers

July 23, 2016

5 Reasons To Invest In Employee Training

Training and developing your employees is critical to the future success of your organization and the horticulture industry at large. Here are five reasons why your employees are worth the effort.

Read More
Pleasant View Gardens Savor Edibles

July 22, 2016

Pleasant View Gardens Targets Millennials With Savor Ed…

Taking something as ubiquitous as vegetables and herbs and giving it a fresh new look is no easy task, but Pleasant View Gardens took on the challenge with extensive research and creative marketing.

Read More
Dummen New Columbus Office

July 21, 2016

Dümmen Orange Opens New North American Headquarters In …

The new office, which officially opened during Cultivate’16, supports the company’s vision to be integrated into a vibrant and inspiring community, and provides a bright, modern workspace for its approximately 30 local employees.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]