Case study: Streamline feeding on a farrow-to-finish pig unit

Find out how investing in a barrow and scoop saved one farmer 365 hours per year in staff labour.

Back to: Lean management case studies in the pork sector

The problem

The unit: independent producer with 500–1,000 sows running an indoor farrow-to-finish operation.

Small feed hoppers are situated outside each of the four farrowing sheds. These are supplied by a larger, central feed hopper elsewhere on the unit. Staff have to collect the feed from here with a bucket twice a day.

Feeding the sows was a labour-intensive process, exacerbated by the fact that staff were having to go back and forth numerous times within each farrowing shed to refill their bucket from the hopper.

Staff could only feed one or two pens with each bucket, and as lactation progressed sows were fed more frequently. This resulted in a lot of trips up and down the passageways.

The solution

The producer had considered investing in an automated feed system, however, this would incur significant cost.

Following the waste walk that formed part of the Lean activity, it was suggested that if they purchased a barrow and scoop they could fill the individual sow hoppers using these, which would be significantly cheaper than an automated system, but still save time by not having to make so many journeys to and from the central feed hopper.

Analysis demonstrated a similar time saving from both installing an automated hopper and using a barrow as, despite being automated, a feed system will still need inspecting, maintaining and servicing. Using a barrow and scoop will achieve the same time saving, but with significantly less cost.

The costs

£400 for a large four-wheeled feed barrow with lid.

The benefits

The estimated cost and time saved by using a barrow and scoop is:

  • 15 minutes per shed, or 1 hour per day (less at the start of lactation and more at the end)
  • 365 hours per year, or 9 weeks of labour (assuming a 40-hour week)
  • £3,650 per year in labour costs (assuming £10 per hour wage)

This saved time and money could be used to find further efficiencies on the unit, invest in staff training, or grow the business.