Thomas Thomson aims for productivity improvements

Monday, 7 October 2019

Blairgowrie-based grower Thomas Thomson was named as AHDB’s third Strategic SmartHort Centre earlier this year. Already the team has hosted their first workshop, acting as live case study for productivity improvements.

Strategic SmartHort Centres work with consultants, using the LEAN process to identify areas of waste in the business which they can then remove to improve efficiency by 25-40%. Other growers who attend the meeting are then able to apply the techniques to their own business, and report back on their success.

Neil Fedden, the project’s productivity consultant, explains: “Everyone who comes to the Strategic SmartHort Centre will develop an action plan which they can implement on their own businesses, and as we go through the year everyone will be able to share what changes they have made, and how they have made a difference to their business.”

Peter Thomson, CEO of Thomas Thomson, who have been in the soft fruit business since the 19th century, has long prioritised labour efficiency. 

He says: “Labour really is a big issue, both the cost of it and the availability. While robotics do offer some potential in the future, it’s really a long way off, so we’re keen to see what new ideas this process throws up, and we’re committed to making real changes and being able to report back on genuine efficiency improvements at the end of the day.”

At the first workshop the Thomas Thomson team, along with other local fruit businesses, were taught the theory behind LEAN which focuses on identifying the individual steps involved in a task and working through how to simplify it.

They have now identified eight potential changes they could make to their system, such as increasing the number of scales and changing the picking process, which should increase productivity.

The group will meet again in November, when they will share which changes are making a real difference to their businesses.