Towards a lighter and more efficient production process


AHDB explains how a concept rooted in manufacturing processes in Japan could be applied to create leaner, less expensive production processes for pork companies

Lean management was developed by the Japanese to help rebuild their automotive industry after WWII and has continued to be used by countless industries, including, more recently, agriculture and horticulture.

This may seem unusual at first, but AHDB is investing in a practical program to better understand the benefits of lean management techniques for pork producers.

Lean management focuses on creating a leaner, less expensive production process that generates as much value as possible. It is a commitment to continuous improvement.

“It’s always worth looking outside our own industry and borrowing from the experience of others,” said Ben Williams, senior director of knowledge transfer at AHDB.

“The fact that we are dealing with living animals, plants and biological processes means that there is always some degree of variability, but we can always better control our production systems. It can be complex, but lean management gives us a proven set of tools to determine exactly how well our hog units are currently performing and how we can adapt and improve. ”


“The industry is constantly changing, with customer demands, market volatility and the disease risks to be managed,” said Williams. “We must continue to boost productivity, especially in terms of labor units, as the hourly financial output of the agricultural industry is generally lower than most. “

Ben williams

“Using lean management allows businesses to gain more control over their systems, improve performance, and provide greater resilience to meet challenges. “

With the help of Neil Fedden and his team at Lean Fedden USP management consulting firm, AHDB will test the Lean philosophy on 10 of its Monitor Farms through its new SmartPork program to see how it can benefit hog businesses.

Progress and results will be shared industry-wide, online and through pig clubs so that others can learn new tools to try in their own businesses.

Mr. Fedden will provide theoretical and practical training for unit managers over the next 12 months. Each farm will undertake process control and improvement of its gilter management and / or weaning management to increase gilter retention and weaning weight, with proven returns on investment.

AHDB’s similar SmartHort project has achieved an 18: 1 return on investment across all horticultural businesses involved over the past three years.

Another example of lean management in practice of a cattle unit saved £ 40,000, after identifying practical changes in feeding routines, such as reducing stocking density and overgrazing and with more emphasis on winter forage.

Practical support

“The more we can simplify and remove variations from the hog production process, the easier it is to standardize the way routine tasks are performed,” said Mr. Fedden. “The goal is to make everyday life easier and more enjoyable and to help the team achieve more consistent results. “

Heads of unit are at the heart of the SmartPork program, and they will follow an apprenticeship with a recognized diploma at the end of it.

There will be six days with a Lean expert in the classroom and four times more on the farm, or by video call, to support implementation. The Fedden USP consulting team will adapt to the farm routine and may join a lunchtime meeting or discussion at any other time as needed.

“The first thing we’ll do is a trash walk, which maps everything that happens on the farm, all of the day-to-day jobs and processes,” Fedden explained. “You can draw a site-wide layout and add notes, so it’s easy to view. We then use a method called ‘seven trash plus one’ to find and categorize all the trash areas on the map and think about how everyday tasks could be better organized.

“Typical areas are transporting food and materials and walking from job to job – which is time consuming and could be deployed on other tasks that will have more impact on performance, such as reviewing key pig performance indicators and what is affecting them.

Managers will then consider how to prioritize the areas to change first, focusing on those that will give the fastest and most important ROI. They will learn how to do a cost / benefit analysis of a proposed action plan.

The process followed is ‘plan, do, check, act’, allowing teams to assess how well it has worked and adjust it if necessary before standardizing it – their goal is to establish an efficient way of doing things. things that will become routine over time.

“It is important to make sure that everyone in the unit has a role, so there is not too much burden on the manager and to help everyone understand why things are done and to feel the reward, ”Fedden said.

“Sometimes a manager might ask a few team members to do a mini-project or trial and share their suggested plan with the rest of the team. Advice is given to managers on how to set up a trial without exposing the company to too much risk.

“We want to support managers through a full Lean process on their operation so that at the end of the day they feel they can build on it and continue with the Lean skills themselves. In addition to business improvements, training will also benefit individuals and their own development.

SmartPork will provide a few days off-farm for owners to see lean in other industry contexts and provide the opportunity to discuss value chain mapping with Neil, examining higher level goals and financial impact. SmartPork is also linked to AgriLeader, as people management skills are essential to effectively implement lean management.

More time for animal husbandry – agricultural case study

A number of efficiency gains have been made by staff at Yorkwold PigPro hog production company. For example, they saved time after tracking the number of times they had to move between the AI ​​refrigerator, the farm office, and the service area.

Their solution was to put a small refrigerator in the service area, large enough to store the amount they needed for the day, explained production manager Phil Harman.

“A lot of times you just keep working the same way until you find time to stop and ask questions about why things are being done and how they could be improved,” Mr. Harman said. .

“Making routine tasks like serving or bedding more efficient frees up more time for storage. For example, an additional person might now be able to make it to the maternity ward earlier and, over time, help reduce pre-weaning mortality.

Work plans for daily routines are also in place to ensure that the right people do the right jobs, based on their individual strengths and experience, thus building team confidence, motivation and effectiveness.

The company saved on transportation costs when it began coordinating complementary feed deliveries to four of its farms. “We just had to make sure each farm was ordering at the same time so that they could arrange to put them on the same truck,” Mr. Harman said.

Taking Control – On-Farm Case Study

Pig farmer Simon Watchorn explained his perspective and experience with lean management in his outdoor herd.

“We don’t produce just any old pigs, but a constant flow of numbers, at as uniform a weight as possible and a population as healthy as possible, for as little money as possible. This whole ‘process’ requires control and, if you don’t control it, it will control you, ”he said.

Simon watchorn

Simon watchorn

“The gray line on the graph below shows the variance and volatility of my calving rate prior to introducing lean techniques and controlling my processes. The blue line (dotted) shows the effect of these changes. My farrowing rate is much tighter as are other important KPIs including pigs born alive.

“The red line is even more powerful, which matches my calving rate while facing a difficult PRRS outbreak; the use of lean process control has enabled my business to be agile enough to react and cope with the increased pressure. ”

Farrowing rate

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  • This article is from the May issue of Pig World magazine to which you can subscribe here.

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