Improving Efficiencies On-farm

There are many things out of a farmer’s control that can impact their business- increasing input costs, labour shortages, and market price for products are just a few.

By encouraging farmers to adopt practices rooted in the concept of continuous improvement (CI), we can support them in addressing the aspects of their operation that they can control. With improved products, services, and increased efficiencies, the goal is for our farm operators to do more with less.

So.. What is Continuous Improvement?

At its core, continuous improvement is a process-improving methodology. It can be used to identify strategic needs, establish baselines for improvement, prioritize root causes and implement solutions.

There are typically eight areas where “waste” can appear throughout your processes. These are areas where CI methods and practices can help make your farming operation more efficient.

  • Transportation – Moving items or information. For example, moving feed to and from different locations on site.
  • Inventory – Product or information that the customer hasn’t received yet and so it remains sitting or in storage.
  • Motion – Excessive movement within a workspace such as walking or driving back and forth while fixing a broken fence.
  • Waiting – Waiting for supplies to arrive, equipment to be repaired or information to be shared.
  • Overprocessing – Doing more work than necessary or duplicating information in more than one place.
  • Overproduction – Doing work before it is needed or having supply come in faster than demand.
  • Defects – This could be mistakes and errors that need to be reworked or equipment that breaks down due to a lack of pro-active maintenance.
  • Skills & Staff Engagement – Not using workers to their fullest abilities. New hires are put to work without proper training.

How can it be applied to your farming operation?

Among the most valuable things you have is your time. Many challenges demand your time each day and addressing them consumes that limited resource. One way to reduce this time loss is the creation and use of standard work, which can address several of the above areas of waste. Standard work is a visual representation on site, where the work is done, of how duties are to be executed.

Having standard work is especially important with new employees, but also when new equipment or work processes are implemented. It provides consistency in how work is explained and thus in how it is completed. Lack of direction (lack of standard work) can lead to:

  • Lost time in having to repeat instructions
  • Inconsistent execution of chores that can lead to issues of safety or product quality
  • Safety violations that can cause injury or harm to team members, livestock or potentially damage expensive equipment.

Creating a standard work document can be time-consuming but will benefit everyone and ultimately cut down on time loss. As an example, if you have an employee who is not able to restart the feed pusher in your cow barn, you currently need to stop what you are doing, get to the cow barn yourself and adjust the equipment. A task the employee could do in 3 minutes has now cost you 15-20. Having a standard work document that details every step of how to restart that equipment allows the employee to complete the task efficiently on their own.

Resources on creating documents such as standard work are some of the many things underway at the NSFA, as we further our efforts to foster a culture of continuous improvement within the agriculture sector.

Efficiency Symposium October 2nd

On Monday, October 2nd, the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture will be hosting an Efficiency Symposium focused on continuous improvement for farmers and industry stakeholders to attend. This event will take place from 9:30 am-2:00 pm at the Inn on Prince in Truro. Join us to learn more about the benefits of adopting continuous improvement best practices on farm; hear from farmers, processors, and CI experts.

You can register HERE or phone the office at 902-893-2293 for more information.