Why We Use Lean Management Principles
At Grasslands, we are now committed to using a form of lean management on all our dairy farms. At the moment, our focus is very much on introducing sound business principles to the business with the ultimate aim of embracing the full lean management system.
A lot of our early efforts have gone into process mapping and, subsequently, measuring the processes we are using. We are then able to look at how to improve those processes in a measurable way. Combined with this, we have done extensive research to identify areas within the farm that could be waste hot spots. We have also looked to develop and improve our people management skills, ensuring that we utilise a team approach to any issue we face.
Initially, we had a discussion with Wiseman Dairies (now Müller), who were introducing lean management to their own business. We were keen to see how the lean management principles could be applied to agriculture as this was something we were struggling to get to grips with. For farmers, it is often easier to understand a process when we can see it in operation and view tangible results. Fortunately for us, as a dairy monitor farm for Cheshire we were given the opportunity to explore means of improving productivity, sustainability and profitability, with the support of Robert Wiseman Dairies and Kay Carson.
Our main motivation for embracing a lean management business model was to find a way to cope with Grasslands’ rapid expansion. In particular, we needed to develop a management system. Having visited numerous farms in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, we had a fairly good idea of what a pasture based system should look like. We were concerned, however, that we’d struggle to deliver from a management point of view. With lean management principles though, we felt that we could solve these management issues, as well as introducing a culture of improvement.
Dairy farming is essentially a combination of various processes and we needed to understand them thoroughly before looking at any improvements. Additionally, we needed to be very transparent with the entire team, so everyone was aware of the changes and could be fully engaged. Lean management focusses heavily on statistics and measurable performance in order to identify areas of waste. Because of this we have been able to move away from making decisions based on opinion and instead looked at the cold hard facts. This is now integral to how we manage our farms.
If you want to learn more about lean management and its agricultural applications, read here.