The Challenges of Agricultural Lean Management
Implementing lean management principles to an agricultural setting can be quite challenging. If applied properly, this process should transform your business. With such dramatic change inevitably comes problems, but these can certainly be overcome. Outlined below are some of the major challenges we’ve faced so far in our lean management journey, and the lessons we’ve learnt.
At Grasslands, one of the most attractive elements of the lean management philosophy was the focus on management. As we continued to expand quite rapidly, our management system was struggling to keep up. We had a fairly clear idea of how we wanted to introduce a pasture based system to the Grasslands’ farms, having spent time at farms both in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. How the management system would support the agricultural processes, we were less clear on.
Prior to investigating lean management, we were very reactive in how we managed our farms. Instead of planning ahead to identify problems or possible opportunities, we would simply deal with the issue when it arrived. It was very much a fighting fires situation. Lean management turns that mind set on its head. Now, at Grasslands, we try to focus on continuous reviewing and planning. By flagging up potential problems earlier on, we can reduce waste of resources, time and effort, and put procedures in place for next time.
Providing A Vision and Culture
Arguably, the most crucial element of lean management is ensuring the whole team is on board. If not everyone is working towards to a set of clearly defined goals, the entire exercise becomes meaningless. Looking back, we didn’t adequately engage our Grasslands staff at the early stages of the process or clearly articulate our vision. When you are trying to initiate change in your business, from top to bottom, everyone needs to have the full story. Without this understanding, how can we expect them to embrace a new culture and suggest their own improvements? Our team are the experts in each of their areas of the business and their knowledge of where waste could be cut is invaluable.
The lean management philosophy is heavily based on information. It’s all about the data. With such a clear focus on reducing waste, KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) become crucial. Initially, we struggled to collect the right information as we all had to learn and apply new techniques. However, we are now starting to adapt to these new ways of working and are seeing the results. In particular, our younger staff have been able to adjust quite quickly and really take a lead within the company.
At Grasslands, we are still working towards being a fully lean management driven company, so we expect to face many more challenges in the future. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on how we are doing!