How Oregon Growers Are Making Lean Improvements With Help From Their Peers

Oregon Lean Nursery ConsortiumThe Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium recently helped two Pacific Northwest growers realize significant productivity gains through a series of “rapid improvement activity” events.

The first event was held in February at JLPN Inc., a deciduous ornamental tree liner grower in Salem, OR. Three teams focused on a grading process, targeting the extra time and steps involved in the process. Company leaders were determined to double productivity, and the teams exceeded these expectations, reducing the crew size by nearly 20% and increasing units per worker hour from 162 to 466 on one seedling variety.


“Implementing Lean practices at JLPN has become an entirely new skill set — just as crucial as the skills required to grow tree liners — that creates value for our customers,” says John Lewis, JLPN President. “The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium has been our educational driving force, helping us create higher quality product while eliminating waste in our processes.”

The second rapid improvement event took place on March 28, where the consortium focused on a shipping process at Smith Gardens’ Aurora, OR, facility (Smith Gardens is a Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Grower). The consortium facilitated a team representing six different companies who came together to improve productivity 122%. This was accomplished by systematically removing seven types of waste and establishing standard work for the process, drawing on the resources and creativity of the team, rather than one person.

“Being part of the Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium has helped us bring in fresh eyes to our processes,” says Andres Alamillo, Continuous Improvement Manager at Smith Gardens. “It has also allowed us to collaborate with folks within the nursery industry in ways that we could have not done otherwise. Every individual in the Consortium brings a new set of strengths, which helps propel the team forward. It is very helpful when you have trained individuals who are able to see the waste quickly and who have bias for action to eliminate it.”

Members of the Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium have committed to learning and applying the principles of lean together for one year. Top practitioners in each company meet for one-day rapid improvement sessions at a hosting nursery or greenhouse each month.

Seven companies are involved in the consortium this year: Eshraghi Nurseries, JLPN, Marion Ag Service, PRT Oregon, Robinson Nursery, Smith Gardens Aurora, and Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas. Companies interested in participating can contact Elizabeth Peters, 503-250-2235 or [email protected] for information and an application form. To learn more about what a lean consortium is, visit