Turning Opportunities into Improvements
Our last blog article looked at why it is important to have a process for capturing ideas from the team about what could be better (“Opportunities for Improvement” or “OFI”) and gave some practical tips for doing this. This article will give an example of how having a process for capturing OFI and following up to turn them into improvements has helped us make calving easier, better, faster, safer and more enjoyable.
We are about four years into our continuous improvement journey on farm. We’re certainly not perfect but that’s ok: small, incremental change = continuous improvement. We’re aiming for continuous improvement not perfection.
During the first few years our improvements focused on low hanging fruit – things which were easy to fix and resulted in big improvements. Usually this came down to better communication (clearly articulating our processes, the steps involved, critical points and checks and improving communication with the team including getting their input and implementing standard operating procedures and incorporating visual communication into our workplace).
Now we are further down the track we are attacking less straight forward improvements. For example, this calving we are benefiting from improvements to our milk trailer. This carts the milk and calf feeders between calf sheds (which for us are spread across the farm). Often the calf feeders would bounce off during these journeys between sheds. The result was frustration for the calf rearer and also a waste of time and travel. They would need to drive back and pick them up (motion & transport waste) and their other jobs would wait while this was done (waiting waste). Note: it was bumpy lanes that caused the feeders to bump off, not bad driving!
The first step in fixing this issue was hearing from the person doing the work about what wasn’t working, the OFI. Fixing the issue wasn’t straight forward and we needed a team approach to fix it. This meant it couldn’t be fixed immediately and having a process to ensure we followed up to make sure the issue wasn’t forgotten and was addressed was critical.
Over the quieter time of the year (when time/energy was available) changes were made to the milk trailer (by Chris who can weld and created his own solution) which literally stopped the calf feeder being able to fall off. Mistake proofing by modifying the equipment has a name in Lean: Poka-yoke. The result is that this year the calf feeders haven’t fallen off at all – all that frustration and wasted time/motion has been eliminated from our system forever…
The result: small, incremental change = continuous improvement. Work is also easier, better, faster, safer and more enjoyable. Want to know more about continuous improvement culture and our upcoming FarmTune programme? Get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org