What is Lean?
Lean has its origins in Toyota and has been used in manufacturing since the 1940's. It is a holistic approach, system and philosophy to managing your business that is based on a culture of continuous improvement and challenging the status quo. It aims to eliminate all waste from the business processes, maximising value, and delivering products and services that customers wants at the right time, in the quantity needed, with the best quality and at the lowest cost.
It enables you to work smarter not harder and do more with less, while achieving better results through better, more efficient processes and systems and the elimination of waste so that your time is spent on only value added activities and jobs.
Over the last 30 years, lean has been implemented across all industries including rail, finance, mining, IT, healthcare, public sector, defence and agriculture. It is a proven methodology based on simple common sense principles that achieves results for businesses.
What does Lean have to do with farming?
How can it apply lean principles to a farm? Farming is completely different to making cars isn’t it?
Yes, farming is different – we have a lot more variables that perhaps are not as easily controlled – weather, animal health, global stock markets, environmental changes. However, we also have farm inputs, outputs and processes which we do have control of. Just like in manufacturing, we have people, animals, materials, resources, equipment and machines (our business inputs) that work together through various processes to give us our output which in the ideal world is a high-quality product (whether that be milk, meat, or vegetables), at the lowest cost, in the right time, with zero safety incidents, good animal welfare and minimal environmental impact. And every farm has many repetitive processes which can all be improved.
Lean essentially helps us to convert our inputs as efficiently and effectively as possible through streamlined value-added processes into our ideal outputs (low cost, high-quality product).
Lean can help your farm to achieve the best outcomes by doing the right things, at the right time in the right way.
Lean Farming applied to Farm Processes
Our farms are full of processes – repetitive processes. Processes that repeat every year, every month, every week or every day: calving, crop management, mating, drenching, fencing, break feeding, feed out, milking, shifting stock, shearing. This makes our farms ideal places to apply lean manufacturing methodologies. While our current processes may not be very well defined or possibly change depending on who does the particular task, they are still processes.
Lean helps us to define our processes, optimise them by eliminating all waste (non-value added components) from the process and standardise these processes across our teams and farm so that everyone is using the one best way of doing something. Lean principles then help us to continuously improve our processes so that we get better and more competitive every day.
Lean Farming and Problem Solving
Lean methodology and tools can help our farms with many of the key problems we face every day: improving our production results, reducing our cell counts and improving quality, improving cow health while reducing things like empty rates or deaths or diseases, optimising our pasture, creating better maintenance systems to stop unexpected breakdowns, eliminating waste, fixing problems once for good, creating more engaged, accountable teams, and of course saving our farms money.