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Lean Food Industry Agribusiness Case Study – Major Fresh Vegetable Grower and Processor

Client: Harvest Moon
Location: Devonport, Tasmania, Australia

The Challenge

Our customer is a major grower and processor of fresh vegetables. They are a major producer of cabbages, potatoes, onions and is Australia’s largest carrot producer. They were an interesting lean food industry challenge, where TXM applied lean principles to an Agribusiness.

They operate a highly automated carrot washing and packing line at their processing site. During harvest, 8 tonne bins of carrots are delivered to the site and these must be processed and enter the cool stores within 24 hours. Unfortunately poor reliability and labour productivity was leading to high levels of lost time and product waste on the carrot processing line. TXM was engaged to assist to improve carrot line performance for the 2010-2011 season.

The Solution

TXM commenced our support prior to the commencement of harvest. The end-to-end processing chain was mapped to identify bottlenecks and key areas of waste. Initial coaching on lean principles was provided and solutions developed to apply during the season.

During the season the focus shifted to coaching the processing teams in the TXM Lean Daily Management System (LDMS ™). This involved coaching team leaders in daily routine tasks to ensure that they were focused on the key drivers of line performance. This required setting a range of daily tasks including routine machinery, labour and product checks to ensure that team leaders did not spend their whole day troubleshooting machine faults. Key indicators were established to engage the teams in improvement and teams were coached in the use of structured problem solving to find and address the root causes of breakdowns and other problems. Short daily meetings were established to improve communication within the teams.

Importantly, the TXM coach recognised the intense workload during harvest and coached the team leaders “in action” in the workplace rather than relying on off-line training. This meant that disruption to the operation was minimised.

The Results

The project has now been extended in to a second carrot season, however significant results have already been achieved. Improved daily maintenance routines and product and process checks have lead to a stunning 80% reduction in unplanned downtime. Standardised daily routines for team leaders, supervisors and support staff has lead to greater staff engagement and better utilisation of labour as well as being a key driver of downtime reduction.

Importantly, in the words of the General Manager, “we now focus on improvement all the time”. The business has created a culture of continuous improvement based on daily communication and problem solving at each level of the business.