The international adoption of lean in agriculture and horticulture



The international lean review analysed the level of adoption of lean management by agricultural and horticultural businesses globally. This was completed at 3 levels of increasing detail:

  • Level 1 – International areas where there are concentrations of agricultural and horticultural businesses
  • Level 2 – Within these concentrations, the number of agricultural and horticultural businesses who have implemented Lean to some degree and the number of Lean businesses outside of the sector within the concentrations defined above
  • Level 3 – For each business, an overview, their experience of Lean, how far they are on the Lean adoption scale, can they host visits

High level findings

Benefits realised when implementing lean management:

  • Productivity Improvement (range between 15 – 80% reported)
  • Improved product yield (range between 10 – 50% reported)
  • Increased sales by eliminating capacity constraints (range between 56 – 200% reported)
  • Improved quality
  • Softer benefits (improved communication, team work and morale)

Lessons Learnt from busineeses which have implemented lean management:

  • Adapt lean to the sector (variability, pull, word “Lean” and other terminology can be a barrier)
  • There are quick wins (high vol/labour) but it takes time to embed lean management
  • Can be employee resistance
  • Important to train all staff at the farm if possible
  • Leadership/management is crucial (buy in and culture)
  • Challenge perceptions
  • Use peers and other farmers to drive programme uptake and embedding
  • Farmers and growers golbally, have a preference for the practical rather than theory
  • In US, there has been an adoption of a standard model for scheduling, pull, flow and line balancing


Proposed model or roaadmap for UK farmers and growers


Next steps and recommendations

Use the data and information we have collated to give insight to the sector (articles, blogs, podcasts lessons learnt from Lean in US or Ireland)
Create some “virtual” best practice sharing (tours, videos, podcasts)
A hosted virtual event (e.g. Toyota Management Centre Deeside , North Wales)
Develop best practice material (guides, templates etc.), building on the SmartHort and SmartPork material

Beef & Lamb,Cereals & Oilseeds,Dairy,Horticulture,Pork,Potatoes
17 August 2020 - 13 April 2021
Project leader:
Gracie Emeny


AHDB International Research v3 April 21

About this project

The aim is to deliver a review of the international adoption of Lean in agriculture and horticulture, and to map against other industries and businesses where Lean has been adopted within that locality.

The outcomes of this review will be used to inform future AHDB study tours and international communication opportunities and recommend to AHDB the next steps for KE delivery around Lean.

The key objectives to deliver this are:

  1. A) To review, map and report on the international adoption of Lean management and associated practices in agriculture and horticulture.
  2. B) In the areas/countries where Lean adoption has been identified, provide an overview of other businesses and industries locally that have also embedded