Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Lean Manufacturing Step Change to Improve Despatch in HNS Nurseries - HH3808SHN

Research undertaken through the HTA Business Improvement Schemes has identified that the largest proportion of labour costs in HNS nurseries is in the area of despatch. This projects aims to identify the areas where changes can be made to reduce labour costs and therefore increase productivity in these areas, by means of lean manufacturing techniques, rather than excessive automation, identifying best practice which can then be disseminated to other nurseries via a series of workshops and videos/CDs. The research will take the form of three five day “Rapid Improvement Workshops” (RIW) within the dispatch areas of three nurseries taken to represent three size ranges within the industry. These workshops will help each nursery to identify and then eliminate non-value added activities to improve flexibility and productivity within the dispatch areas. Video footage will be shot during the process which will then be used to produce a training video which will form the basis of 1 day workshops across the county and which will also be made available to individual growers. There are no clear statistics on the sizes of Nurserystock nurseries throughout the UK. However the HTA membership data base gives a “snapshort” of the sizes of nurseries engaged in Nurserystock in membership which we believe is fairly representative of the range of sizes within the UK as a whole. HTA membership is based on turnover and this gives a reasonable idea as to the size of nurseries involved. The project aims to make information available for all growers and therefore we will be selecting a grower from each of the bottom third, middle third and top third of the bands. To help with the selection we will be utilising the figures form the NBIS schemes which highlights those nurseries where the costs are higher than average in the despatch area of production. The third element in selection will be geography. To keep costs down we will be selecting nurseries within 200 miles of Hook, where the consultants are based. In this way we hope to make the information relevant to the majority of growers in all size ranges. The project aims to meet the objectives of the demonstration farms philosophy in identifying an area where productivity can be improved by the use of best practice and making this information available in a training and demonstration format to growers across the industry.

The project addresses the utilisation of labour in the despatch area of HNS Nurseries. This has been shown to be as much as 60% of the total labour costs in an average nursery and research has shown that this substantially reduces productivity in nurseries. The project aims to reduce labour costs in this area, by better and more efficient use of labour, resources, tools and equipment, without the need for substantial capital investment in automation. It also aims to identify areas where production activities could be more carried out more efficiently earlier in the production process. UK growers are subject to increasing competition from imports from both EU and non-EU countries where production costs are less. It is essential that UK growers identify areas in their production systems where they can reduce costs and control waste thus helping them to compete more effectively.

The HTA Nursery Business Improvement Scheme has produced industry standard benchmarks on production costs, based upon the collation of specific labour costings for 50 plus nurseries over 5 years, which have identified despatch as being the area where the greatest costs and waste occur. Some years ago, HDC undertook a basic survey of a number of nurseries attempting to identify both good and bad practice in the despatch area and producing a video to highlight these issues. With rapid changes in production processes, this video is now somewhat out of date. (We have asked HDC to supply us with a briefing on the success of the project and this will be forwarded as soon as it arrives). A number of consultants previously working with ADAS but now working in the private sector have mentioned the original project in discussions during NBIS meetings and other meetings and the need to expand upon it whilst the Nurserystock panel of the HDC themselves have identified a project in this area of being a high priority for the sector. This project will move the knowledge foreword, not only identifying areas of good and bad practice but also demonstrating the process by which a company can identify its own faults, involve staff in considering ways for improvement and then implementing the changes necessary. The process is based upon the Government supported MAS “lean manufacturing process” which has been used very successfully elsewhere in industry but until now has not been applied to horticulture. Lean manufacturing involves the application of tools and techniques to systematically reduce non-value adding activities (i.e. those the customer does not value or pay for) in the businesses to reduce costs, improve service levels, by reducing lead-times and improve time to market for new products. The Manufacturing Advisory Service has been sponsored by the DTI to help SME’s introduce the lean manufacturing process into their businesses. According to MAS, typical figures of 40% productivity improvement and 90% reduction in lead times are not unusual in companies undergoing the process. Consultants who specialise in this system will be leading the audits for this project. Two brief case studies are attached for reference.

1. In the three targeted nurseries –
a) utilise floor space more effectively and increase production capacity
b) increase productivity
c) improve cashflow through improved control of materials
2. Film the workshop process

3. Produce a training video and associated workshops to provide demonstrations to growers in the techniques and best practice identified and also to highlight the business benefits of continuous improvement.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Lean Manufacturing Step Change to Improve Despatch in HNS Nurseries   (52k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2004

Cost: £35,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Horticultural Trades Association
Hardy Nursery Stock              
Technology Transfer              
Fields of Study