Lean Farming during calving
You’ll often hear PeopleMAD talking about Lean (or DairyNZ’s FarmTune programme, which is lean for dairy farmers).
There’s lots of interest in Lean on farm because it offers opportunities to do things faster, better and safer. It is focused on continuous improvement: small changes to how we do things which save us time, money and effort and improve how work gets done. Most of these changes are low or no cost!
Here are some practical examples of how lean can help you on farm during calving.
Where does the waste come from?
On farm we often rely on verbal communication to “tell” people what to do. This can create “waste” as people hear different things or forget/don’t understand key information. Lean is all about minimizing or removing “waste” and focuses on visual communication or “showing” the right way.
For example, imagine the manager is giving instructions and tells the farm assistant to put the replacement heifer calves in the end bay of the calf shed. Can you see the potential for “waste” here? The farm assistant arrives at the calf shed and wonders “which one is the end bay, left or right?” The result will be waste as either:
- The calves get put in the wrong bay (lean calls this defect waste); or
- The farm assistant has to find the manager and check (either by phone or in person) (lean calls this motion and waiting waste).
Lean categorises and labels waste. Defect waste happens whenever we get the wrong result, in this case calves in the wrong place. This wastes our time because inevitably we need to go back and “fix” the problem which results in rework (extra work as we fix our mistake).
Motion waste happens whenever we move more than we need to. In this example walking to find instructions (or even making an extra phone call) results in motion waste.
As you’re probably noticing, most waste is quite small. The problem is that it all adds up and while we are fixing problems or finding information another waste is happening in the background. Lean calls this “waiting” waste. Waiting waste happens any time the real work has stopped because I’m busy looking for the tools or information to carry on. In this example, the other jobs are “waiting” while the farm assistant finds the information needed to carry on.
It can actually be quite scary when you become aware of all this waste which hampers getting the real work done. Everyone has this waste although most of us are blind to it.
Lean helps us identify the waste (or opportunity to change) and offers us lots of solutions (or countermeasures) to help remove waste and make work flow more easily.
What can we do?
Practical examples of how you can use lean for calving include:
- Whiteboards. These can be used to share critical information (e.g. which calves are once-a-day; calving checklists) at the point of use in calf sheds. Whiteboards are relatively cheap (sometimes free from suppliers) and last several seasons (this board and the laminated checklists are two years old and still in good condition).
2. Numbering the calf shed bays. Simple right? Hardly any cost or time involved but boy can it save miscommunication and the waste that results.
3. Information and tools at point of use
Having the right tools and equipment at the point of use will reduce waste. Waiting and motion waste can both happen when we are searching for tools to do the job. When delivering new replacement calves to the shed, having the tagger and naval spray at the point of use will eliminate waste. Even walking to another bay to fetch these items adds unnecessary movement to the task (and all these small, extra movements add up to some chunky waste). A tool box which contains the key tools at the point of use and which can be easily moved is another simple tool. It keeps everything right at point of use eliminating waste (and frustration!). Think about ergonomics too (reducing the need to bend, stretch and twist) and preventing additional movements and strain.