Assessing the various operations management techniques

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Manufacturing operations are continuously looking for increasing the productivity and output of their operations. The main goal of an organisation is to satisfy their customer with the expected product, quality, quantity and price in the shortest amount of time.

Lean manufacturing is more than a cost reduction program or a problem solving approaches (Tapping, 2002). The main idea of the lean principles is efficient product can be achieved by eliminating the wastes. This means eliminating unwanted movement, waiting and delays, need of rework, and reduce the defect.

the lean principles can be applied in any production industries. The application of lean in horticulture industries is

What is lean?

According to Womack, Jones, and Ross (1990), the term 'lean' correspond to a system that utilize the fewer resources in order to produce the same output than those produce by a traditional mass production system, at same time maximizing the range of finished product for the end users. The 'Lean Manufacturing' can recognise by different names, such as just-in-time manufacturing, agile manufacturing, synchronous manufacturing and continuous manufacturing etc.

The lean manufacturing is an operational tactic oriented towards achieving the minimum possible time cycle by reducing the waste (Liker, 1997). This system came from the Toyota production system and its main objectives are waste elimination, cost reduction, and employee empowerment. The Japanese philosophy of doing business is totally different then the philosophy that has been prevented by US. The traditional belief in the waste had been that the only way to make profit is that to add it into the manufacturing coast and it reflects in selling price of the product (Ohno, 1997; Monden, 1998). On other hand the Japanese way of doing business is that, the customers are generator of selling price. The more quality one provides to is customer and more service one offer, the more the price that customer will pay for that product. The difference between the cost of product and this price will determine the profit of the company (Ohno, 1997; Monden, 1998). So we can say that the principle of lean manufacturing is to reduce the cost by continuous improvement that will eventually reduce the cost and increase the profit.

There is no question that elimination waste is essential tool of reducing the cost of manufacturing or survival for some companies in today's world. The company has to create high quality and low cost of product that deliver to the customer in shortest period of time. There are sets of tools and technique developed by Toyota and can be used to eliminate or at least reduce the source of waste.

Lean manufacturing and Horticulture

Horticulture has lots of similar characteristics of the car manufacturing system this involves lean manufacturing principles. In this practice environment it is possible to apply lean principles on the horticulture industry as well.

The study provides the application of lean manufacturing to horticulture industry. It has proved that due to this principle people have saved £1000's per year and tremendous increase in the profit margin. It has been clear that after the application of lean improvement in the business and has potential to deliver fundamental changes in the business. But in order to obtain full benefit of the lean will take long period of around 3 years and all the available resources.

The working principles of lean

The main principle of the lean is to use all the resources efficiently especially labour in the horticulture industry. The labour resources will require main focus in this industry as labour represents around 30 to 40 percentage of the total production cost.

The main principles are


Waste reduction

Pull and flow control

The principles of lean:

4.1 Value:

The value can be associated with the customer requirement i.e. exactly what customer wants, and for what the customer is paying for?

The process of transforming raw material in to finished goods is the main purpose of any organisation. The process of transformation consists of two different activities: one which are necessary and required and this include very less amount of total cost called as value added activity. The other activities called as Non value added activities includes large portion of total cost (Tapping, 2002).

In horticulture industry we consider the tomato production the activities can be divided as

Non Value Added

Unavoidable non value added

Value added

Transportation of fruits from green house to warehouse

Removal of leaf


Time taken by people to walk from wash room to field/green house

Placements of new plants every year


Disposal of unwanted/damaged fruit

Picking the fruit from plant

Dividing the different activities is difficult process. Here we have divided the activities in to three categories. The process can be made simple by dealing with non value added activities; this is the main activity one has to identify.

For example removal of leaf from the plant is necessary process but it is not going to make any difference in the final product but it cannot be avoided as it will affect the plant. We can say that customer is not directly going to get any benefit from this process hence it is unavoidable non value added. On other hand labelling or packaging of the tomato is value added activities. The customer needs some good packaging from the manufacturer and also clear labelling.

Another question we can ask is "picking up is going to add any value?" no doubt yes, as picking up the fruit as right time will affect the quality and if done properly it will reflect on consistency, and it does add the customer value.

4.2 Pull and flow control

"Heijunka" is the Japanese word for production smoothing (Tapping, 2002). It is the method of planning and levelling production level to meet the customer demand by volume and variety, by maintaining the level of production as constant as possible over specific period of time. "Heijunka" is the concept adopted from Toyota production system, in order to reduce the production cost its necessary to build no more cars and parts then the number that could me sold in the market. To achieve this, the production line should be smooth so that it can efficiently use the available resources. If the production line is not smooth it leads to waste.

Henry Ford (1922) realise that it was only worth of buy raw material for immediate use, taking in to account that state of transportation at that time. if there were no problem of transportation and flow of material could be depend upon, it would not necessary that carry out stock and will immediately go into the production, reducing the amount of money tied up in the material. When transportation cannot be depend upon by that time larger stock is necessary.

In other words we can say that Pull and Flow control is the principle in lean to keep low level of the stock, but respond quickly and maintain maximum utilization of processing capabilities.

Practically it is not possible to keep high level of stock especially with eatable crop product as they have short life span. Hence this tendency helps horticulture industry to avoid the tendency of keeping high stock level to meet the demand.

However, there should be some flow of stock between the customer and production line in horticulture industry as well, and it is not possible to close the plant in any circumstances. But some processes can be temporarily stopped if the order is not confirm.

In general, Pull comes in picture after the order is received and manufacturing starts or carried out for the same.

In case of eatable crop the pull process starts from any of the stage like packaging or dispatching the finished product.

In actual practice the production process has one unit to process at each and every step in the production line, when packaging is completed it transferred to dispatch unit at end of packing line. Now when dispatch is ready then only it gives signal to produce one more packet. We can say that packaging unit will produce only that much packet when there is 'space to fill' and it will stop if the dispatch box is full. This pulls the chain reaction which pulls the product throughout the process and makes in flow.

In practical the above situation can be overcome by ability of production unit to match the various demands from the customer. In this case the firm can minimize the stock but have suffered from the last minute delivery problems and speed of delivery. It leads to high level of processing and production at last minute but also cause overstaffing and great amount of ideal time in the processes.

Another way of doing things is in batch process and pushes the order through a manufacturing process. This can implement by start picking the fruit once they receive the final order quantity. Now after receiving the order they start picking and then transported to packing house. Also depends on the maintain stock level, if stock level is minimum the packing house have no work to do until the product reach from the green house, hence provides very little time to deliver the product to customer.

The chain reaction goes further, the lack of raw product at the start of packaging line will inform the green house to pick more products and fetch more from the green house. Then the green house will inform the picking team to pick more. In lean principle the signal to produce more and more cause by space left between the two processes.

The effect is

There should be only one unit of stock at each step of the process.

When order arrives the main goal is to full fill the requirement, as pack house do not have enough stock to full fill the requirement.

The product will flow smoothly in the process and there is no 'start-stop' in whole batch process.

Hence maximum benefit from the pull system is smooth flow of the process and optimizing the full capacity of the production line. When the order is too large, there is no difference in producing the large batch size and deliver on time. For small order there is the possibility to full fill the requirement from the pack house only.

We can consider the following example

A driver will move 10 pallets are moving at a time from production unit to packaging line.

A driver will move 5 pallets are moving at a time but twice as often.

From driver point of view, moving of 10 pallets at a time is most convenient and efficient. This means he can move pallets once and look after other area.

But from packaging line point of view there may be some significant down side of the process.

For example

The packing line has to wait for moving 10 pallets from the dispatch unit before they can start the packing.

Have to manage the 10 pallets at a time and is difficult to store them in packing area.

It is difficult for packing unit to arrange them in the packing line, when they receive 10 pallets at a time.

Keeping shift time in mind, at the end of shift timing if pallets left without packing, possibility of damaging the product more.

We can imagine that efficient process for the driver but can be costly for the organisation and difficult for the packaging system.

In practice number of business fails to recognise that any such problems exist in the system. But in practice when these problems are identified and looked closely than only one can understand that they are much more disruptive in the system than first thought.

4.3 Waste reduction

According to Tapping (2002) "the ultimate lean target is the total elimination of waste. "Waste or muda is anything that adds the cost to the production without adding value" (p.41).

The waste can be divided in to seven categories (Tapping, 2002)

Waste of over producing: The products which are produced but not intended for stock or for sale immediately.

Waste of waiting: It refers to ideal time between the two processes.

Waste of processing: Doing more than necessary for product and customer willing to pay more.

Waste of transport: Unnecessary movement of material.

Waste of inventories: Excess of stock from raw material to finished goods.

Waste of motion: Unwanted motion not necessary to complete the task or operation.

Waste of defect and spoilage: Faulty parts produce and have to be destroyed.

The waste reduction tools are zero defects, reduce setup time and line balancing. The main objective is to ensure that the products are defect less, through continuous improvement process (Karlsson et al.,1996). It is the human tendency to make errors during the manufacturing process. When these errors are made and are not caught it will reflect in the process. However, if one can successfully avoid these errors, than defects can be prevented before it appears.

But in horticulture industry the waste can be divided in to eight categories

Over production

Moment of product

Over stock

Over processing

Waiting and delays

Movement of people



Over Production

Over production most common way in which the fruit is grow. The growers do not have any control on size and quality of the fruit as it grows biologically. So to face highly variable demand for the product some waste cannot be eliminate.

Some examples to manage these wastes are

Where the product is picked and directly into the packing line, and after that disposal of the over production, small amount of cost wasted for packing. If it is known that the product has to be dispose than there is no need of packing the product, will save significant cost and time. The product will directly dispose after picking instead of packing.

Picking the product in to small box is common practice compared to large box. As it is efficient and reduce the double handling of the product. But when the size or quality of the product is known by that time picking the fruit in large box is cost effective and provides the flexibility to change the packing in the packing house. The most effective way to pick the fruit is, collect the fruit in small box for which the specification is know, and rest of the fruits are collected in large box. The system seems to be complicated but it may prove to be more cost effective.

Movement of production

Movement of production means anything which involve in the making final product like fruit, fertilizer, punnets, bags etc. In general we can say that any physical element of the production which required to move from one place to another.

For example of buying a whole years punnets in one batch, and now it is required to store that punnets near to the packing house. So it has to transport in small batches to storage place. Now again it transport to packing house when it is required for the packing of fruit.

Another way of doing this is instead of buying together; have to receive in the regular interval or in smaller quantities directly to the packing house. The concept of 'Just-in -time' can be applied here to receive the punnets at right time.

With 'just-in-time' concept will reduce the cost of but will create the unbalance in the process, when there is no delivery from the supplier and packing line will completely shutdown. But this problem can be solving by depending on the reliable supplier and hence the cost of over stock can be saved and over stocking also reduced.

Over stocking

We can link over stocking with the movement of production as well, but it has another implication too.

Additional capital requirement: by over stocking the material can block the significant amount money.

Long term storage requirement like ware house will increase the capital investment.

There is risk of changing the demand of product or specification of the product.

Over processing

The over processing can be explained in simple way it provides the customer with more than what is necessary. The lean ensures that the customer will receives the product with necessary requirement but production standards ate well maintained so over processing is not required.

In horticulture industry over supply falls in to this category. For some grower overproduction of 3-5% is tolerable, if by the investment in better production. On other hand labelling, punnets and packing are considered as over processing in terms of the actual requirement of the customer.

Waiting and Delay

Waiting and delay comes in the picture when the equipment is not available for the work. For example

The worker has to wait for the equipment borrowed by someone and not brought back

Run out of boxes in the production house will halt entire picking team.

In turn run out of fruit in packing house, whole packing line will shutdown

Movement of people

It can be considered as the time spends by worker to move from one place to another place each day. The questions can be arise as

Is it necessary to move around?

Can this movement avoided?

How much one can do in one day by pending use full time doing something, lean principle 'adding value' rather than

Roaming around the work place

Trying to find out colleges

To get some spare parts which requires every day


The product defect will increase the cost or eliminate the value.

Fruit damaged during the transportation

A truss with green fruit that should have not been picked.

Irregular shape of the fruit

Irregular or imperfect work can be considered as defect. Quality of the crop is also falls in the defect category.


It is the most important factor in the lean principle and is worker themselves. They are the one who is going to implement the ideas and innovate some new ideas in the production house. In most of the organisation suggestion box is kept for the improvement in the work or any other queries.

Lean toolbox:

Process mapping:

Process mapping is the list of each and every individual process that required completing the given task. This should be done step by step for each process from start to end point. For example we can say that time taken, tool/equipment required, distance travel and time taken by any break down in the process. The most suitable system we can implement is coloured post notes. Hence from this non value added process can be easily identified. Like particular colour used for any particular problem, like that specific coloured notes are used for specific task or problems.

Problem solving:

After the process mapping can simply identify the non value added processes and wastes are very obvious and simple to solve. But in practice it may be difficult to salve the problem. The most common problem in any organisation is to deal with problem superficially with focusing on the main problem. It may provide quick and inexpensive solution but will not provide permanent solution. For example during the packing process one person has to check the fruit and remove the fruit accidently fall on conveyor, the problem can be avoided by stooping the fruit falling on the conveyor might be the better solution.


5s is the structural approach to organise the work place and keep organising it.

Seiri deals with sorting or rearranging the work place by eliminating needless items (Feld, 2000). It means "throw away" unwanted items from those items which are necessary, in order to make material flow smooth, and worker move and work easily in the work place.

Seiton refers to put things in right place within specific area. In order to make it simple each and every item must be identified by using label and placed in specific area, resulting in an easier way to find out the proper tool, equipment or materials quickly (Feld, 2000).

Seiso deals with keeping the work place clean. The work place should be maintain on regular basis, clean and organized for next shift, this includes production area, work place and tools and equipment. The neat and clean work place creates healthy environment to work within (Feld, 2000).

Seiketsu is associated with maintaining a high standard of housekeeping and work place environment. In order to maintain high standard regular audit should be run and responsibilities should assign to the people (Feld, 2000).

Shitsuke refers to the leadership to provide housekeeping training, motivation, and communication as fundamental leadership practice in order to make sure that everyone in the organisation follows the 5S standards (Feld, 2000).

Taken together, 5S means good housekeeping and cleanness for better work environment in organisation.


Implementing lean will lead to change in the organisation and it is obvious that it will resist. There is the possibilities of fear of unknown agenda and will hamper to change in the organisation. Therefore any changes by lean or not have to implement sensitively in the organisation otherwise may lead to be failure.

One of the main objectives of the organisation is to focus on how many area they can change by lean principle. There are possibilities that the result will demonstrate large number of applicable area but in practice it may be observed that it will fail to obtain good result.

For an organisation it is important to understand that lean is not a fix applicable to all the areas in the firm. For example implementing 5s to get things tidied up a step in the right direction. But if after applying lean the things will start to slip again means lean not applied properly.

There are possibilities that more productive approach in work shop and training course will prove more productive for the employee of the organisation, and will increase the confidence and benefit before the training. This will increase the chances of success.

Working towards solution and examples

On site communication

This we can figure out from the process mapping. If a single picking team leader will waste at least 15mins each day trying to find the supervisor. If we calculate it will be around 37 hours in 30week of one picking season i.e. team leader will spend 1 week each year trying to locating his supervisor.


The proposed solution is to have an fixed radio point in each green house, so any one working in that area have access to that communication. This will reduce the time around 5-6 min and hence around 25 hours per season.

One better way we can think is that the reason why to contact the supervisor and put the system which eliminate this unnecessary.

Box for picking

Again this can be identified by the process mapping by work of a picker. The collapsible boxes were used and take time to rebuild before the filling, and also have to strap and shrink wrap before transporting to pack house. Also it cannot recognise the cost or waste occurring in the pack house.


A new specifically designed box to stack on pallets and possible to interlock, reduce the need of strapping. Hence this small scale improvement will increase the speed of picking.