Home Greenhouse Is Going Lean the antidote to your labor shortage?

Is Going Lean the antidote to your labor shortage?


Elizabeth and Rick Peters of The Peters Company teach the Lean philosophy to manufacturers in person and online. Photo: The Peters Company

We are in June. Have you ever been through spring? Imagine managing the annual crunch time with a large number of employees, doing little or no overtime, while producing high quality products, and more, while keeping your customers happy at the same time.

“In our business, we have almost zero turnover,” says Chris Robinson, co-owner of Robinson Nursery just outside of Portland, OR.

Today, labor shortages top the list of daily challenges for nearly every green business in the United States and Canada. But Robinson says his company has not only won the battle, but is becoming an industry leader by focusing its efforts on creating both lean production processes and a lean work culture.

“Even through COVID, when there’s a massive exodus of labor in almost every industry, I don’t think we’ve had people quit,” he says.

Lean is the buzzword for the philosophy behind Toyota’s world-renowned vehicle production system. Since the early 1950s, the automaker has mastered “the relentless pursuit of waste” by helping employees work smarter, not harder and increasing productivity by leaps and bounds, according to Rick and Elizabeth Peters at The Peters Company. The couple teaches the Lean philosophy to manufacturers in person and online.

RESPECT for workers

“You’d be amazed at the amount of waste there is in a typical organization,” says Rick Peters.

The goal is to eliminate any part of production that does not increase the value of the product but does increase its cost, such as extra handling, extra product movement, or extra inventory waiting to be worked on. And then move the product around like an assembly line.

Why is lean a big plus for producers struggling to find labor?

Gary Cortes, FlowVision

Gary Cortés co-founded Flow Vision, a lean business and supply chain consulting firm in Parker, CO. Photo: Gary Cortes

“[They] can maintain the same volume and output with fewer people… [they] you don’t have to hire new people because it gets more product out,” says Gary Cortés, who co-founded Vision of the flowa lean management and supply chain consulting firm in Parker, CO.

It is also a victory for the employees. To help a company understand how to operate more efficiently, Rick Peters says everyone in the organization gets involved, even empowering front-line employees. So a small team can spend a week looking for creative ways to improve their shipping practices.

“It’s not just the boss who issues a decree,” says Elizabeth Peters. “It engages the people doing the work. It’s showing respect for the people doing the work because they add value for the customer. In the Lean world, she says, people are considered “the most valuable asset.”

“If we get [employees] involved, they are going to have membership,” agrees Cortés. He says lean production also makes it easier for employees, “so that at the end of the day, after eight, nine o’clock, you don’t feel tired, but you’ve done a lot more than you need to. did before. to do so.

Better worker retention

Lean processes lead to happy workers.

“If companies are able to remove a lot of waste from their organization, it will free up capital,” says Rick Peters.

When this happens, some of the capital is usually spent on things like better salaries and benefits.

“They do this because they want to retain their employees,” he says.

Robinson Nursery has been focused on lean for over a decade. Today it employs 145 team members.

“People feel like they have a good career here,” Robinson says. “We have very good compensation packages. It’s the basis for keeping people, making sure they feel supported and can live beyond their basic needs.

The nursery offers bonuses, health insurance, and a 401K business matching program to its employees, which helps with worker retention.

“We try to have a higher profit margin; we try to be more efficient; we are trying to get better compensation packages; and we try to be more innovative every day,” he says.

Ben_Verhoeven, Peoria Gardens

Ben Verhoeven, president of Peoria Gardens in Albany, OR, says the Lean process has transformed his relationship with his employees. Photo: Peoria Gardens

In a Lean journey

“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of fun, and also a lot of blood, sweat, and tears,” says Ben Verhoeven of Peoria Gardens, a nursery in western Oregon. “To really do it, I think you have to go all out.”

In 2019, Verhoeven hired the Peters family to help their business become leaner. Verhoeven says the process has transformed the relationship he has with his approximately 27 employees.

“We’re working really hard on our culture of respect, responsibility and mutual trust, among other things,” says Verhoeven. “That part of the culture goes hand in hand with lean.”

A leaner company will be more agile.

“It gives me enormous confidence that we can cope with things like rising prices and labor shortages,” says Verhoeven. “Now suddenly I have a broad base of knowledge…of how to apply proven methodological tools to problems.” And a united team.

Learn more about the lean manufacturing philosophy

To learn more about the lean manufacturing philosophy, several resources are available, including the book The Lean Turnaround by Art Byrne. James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones are the authors of Lean Thinking. “Lean” is the buzzword for the philosophy behind Toyota’s world-renowned vehicle production system. Learn more about his system at https://is.gd/toyota_lean_vision.