Lean management case studies in the pork sector

Sometimes the most straightforward solutions are staring us in the face. These real-life examples demonstrate how valuable it can be to take a few minutes to step back from the job and look at how and why specific tasks are performed in a certain way.

Back to: Lean management for farmers and growers

Introduction to Lean management in practice

Our pork monitor farms have worked with a Lean consultant  to develop efficient on-farm processes; this involved completing a to identify inefficiencies. The farmers have been supported and guided through the process by our Knowledge Exchange (KE) team.

The case studies reflect experiences that will be familiar to many. The common finding is that making even small adjustments to the way things are done can free up time for you and your team to carry out other valuable tasks that you wouldn’t usually have time for.

While each efficiency saving might seem quite small, together they can add up to significant benefits. Read on to find out how you can find ways to improve productivity and staff morale on your farm.

Waste walks

A waste walk involves closely watching and following a process or activity and looking for ‘waste’ in a structured way, one step at a time. Once wastes have been identified, you can prioritise which one(s) you want to address (and perhaps eliminate) first.

Waste is any step in a process that does not add value. There are three types of waste in Lean management: Muda, Mura and Muri.

Carry out waste walks under normal conditions – don’t make any changes to the usual routine.

Look for examples of waste under each of the following areas:

Transport: Is equipment being moved unnecessarily. This includes the movement of information, such as performance data that is not analysed.

Inventory: Are parts (machinery, medicines and chemicals) or information building up beyond the number needed or beyond their useful life? For example, sows that should have been culled and now produce fewer offspring that increase variation and workload.

Motion: Are people moving unnecessarily in and between areas that don't benefit the customer or end goal? This includes walking between different pieces of equipment or repetitive movements to reach poorly laid out equipment, e.g. in the AI tent.

Waiting: Are you losing time while you wait for supply chain materials (feed and straw), people (contractors) or information? This could include waiting for equipment to be delivered, e.g. missing tools.

Overprocessing: Are there too many steps involved in getting to the end result, can some steps be merged or streamlined?

Overproduction: Is the farm infrastructure being pushed too far? This is not just about making more of something, it can also refer to making it too quickly resulting in unnecessary storage costs, e.g. higher stocking densities might mean you run out of space before pigs are ready to move.

Defects: These could include barren sows, piglet illness or mortality, and issues that can be avoided, e.g. broken kit that slows people down.

Skills: Are you making the full use of your team's skills, experience and creativity? This can sometimes take the form of highly skilled employees spending time on relatively unskilled tasks.

Farm case studies

Here you’ll find real-life examples of how Lean techniques have improved profitability and performance across pig farms.

Case study: the hidden cost of old, worn-out ad-lib feeders

Find out how farmer calculated the true extent of the waste, along with other savings associated with replacing the old hoppers.

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

Case study: Save time strawing up on a farrow-to-finish pig unit

Find out how the simple hack of hanging a penknife from a bale trolley saved one farmer £90 per year

Case study: Consolidate journeys to save time and money

Find out a farmer saved over £1,300 per year by streamlining the mucking out and bedding up process

Case study: Optimise staff time at weaning

Find out about the simple changes a producer made to add value and increase efficiency

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

Case study: Low-cost investment saves time in service tent

Find out how an extension cable improved efficiency and staff performance on an outdoor breeding unit

Case study: Capitalise on familiarity when moving and loading pigs

Find out how a simple change to the way pigs are moved and loaded saved over 40 hours over the course of a year

EUPiG farm case study

Find out how Pat O'Keeffe Piggeries saved over €30,000 per year

Key takeaways

You will probably identify with some of the case studies and issues addressed within them.

The key takeaway from these examples is that small changes add up over the course of a year, creating more time to spend on tasks and to make further improvements.

While labour and saving money can be a primary motivator, other benefits from implementing the changes included:

  • Reduced use of consumables such as diesel
  • Reduced hours on machines, lowering depreciation
  • Reduced handling stress for livestock and stockpeople
  • Better staff relationships
  • More time available: for training, further efficiency savings and reinvesting into the enterprise
  • Improved morale: Staff feel encouraged and engaged in making the business more sustainable, both financially and environmentally