Case study: Shadow boards save farmer over £1,000 per year

This case study demonstrates how a simple low-cost change can improve efficiency as well as team relationships.

Back to: Lean management case studies in the pork sector

The problem

The unit: independent producer with 1,000 sows outdoors, finished indoors, alongside an arable enterprise.

Following a waste walk and discussions with the pig unit and arable staff, a reccurring and frustrating issue was highlighted – there was never the right size spanner to hand when it was needed. This was an issue throughout the year, but particularly noted during harvest when equipment needed frequent adjustments, maintenance and repair.

As a result, work would come to a halt while someone went to find a spanner.

On the pig unit, and during winter on the arable unit, this would happen 1–2 times a month, wasting about 15 minutes each time (looking and waiting). During harvest, however, this happened more often and could waste up to one hour each time to go and find a spanner and take it back to the field.

Over the course of a year, the team calculated that more than 30 hours had been wasted through looking for the right tool (usually a 13mm spanner) to complete tasks.

The solution

The team came up with two low-cost solutions:

  1. Equip each member of staff with their own 13mm spanner.
  2. Implement shadow boards alongside each piece of equipment or machinery that needs a 13mm spanner so it is obvious when tools are missing.

The team opted for the shadow boards, as personal spanners could be put down, lost or left in overalls. The shadow boards stay with the equipment and machinery, and provide a quick visual cue to make sure no tools are missing before leaving the yard. If anything is missing, they are replaced with new ones from the store before leaving for the day’s tasks.

The costs

  • £40 for 20 spanners (£2 per spanner, those not kept on shadow boards were kept in the store); 18 spanners were still present 12 months later
  • £20 for plywood and bolts to build the shadow boards

The benefits

The estimated time and cost saving was:

  • 30 hours per year per person saved on expensive tasks (arable cost per hour approximately £40)
  • Typical annual saving approximately £1,200

In addition to the time and cost savings, staff relationships are less strained, especially during the busy harvest periods.