Work smart, not hard

Lean management can help dairy farmers improve productivity, drive performance, reduce waste and use time more effectively.

Developed in the manufacturing industry, Lean involves continuous improvement to maximise value from current processes.

It can appear daunting at first so taking small steps and tackling simpler areas first can give you and your farm team the confidence to address other areas.

Lean will not tell you how to farm but it will challenge you to farm better. It’s a structured approach that challenges what we do by following four key steps:

  1. Plan – team, KPIs, inputs, production plan
  2. Do – execute as a team
  3. Monitor – Collect data, share, compare with plan
  4. Review – analyse, what was good, what could be better

This approach forces us to write things down and review what’s happen based on facts, not what we feel may be the case.

Learn more about Lean management

Dr George Fisher, an independent consultant, worked with Richard Tucker at Ditchetts Farm using Lean’s DMAIC model to tackle an issue that had been identified on the farm.

  1. Define - washing down yard after morning milking was taking too long
  2. Measure – it was taking 30 mins to wash using their 100 litre per min pump
  3. Analyse – ideally they’d like it to take 5 mins which would require larger pipes and increased pump volume. There are no implications for storage or water cost as that is supplied from a spring but will require extra time for maintenance
  4. Improve – a new 450 litre pump with wider pipes would need a £2.5k investment and an update to their maintenance plan
  5. Control – record time to wash down, monitor performance of new installation and water usage (Ditchetts take water from spring not on mains water)

The next step, according to Dr Fisher, would be to identity what Richard would do with the extra 25 minutes saved per day.

This could be a simple cost vs benefit calculation i.e. how much would it save in staff time or as Ditchett’s is a family farm, recognising the benefits of a happier, less stressful lifestyle.

While Richard considers whether to go ahead, Dr Fisher argues that choosing a simple issue to address starts you thinking in Lean ways about other parts of the business.

Lean requires a change in culture across the whole team, so tackling the low hanging fruit where you can make quick gains can help to get them to buy into any changes and embed it in the business.

Find out more about Ditchetts Farm

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