Growers urged to "go lean" in face of labour issues

A large tree fruit and hop farm is serving as a case study on how lean principles can improve growers' labour efficiency.

Image:Putneypics (CC BY 2.0)
Image:Putneypics (CC BY 2.0)

Tom Hulme of Kent-based A C Hulme, who is participating in the AHDB Horticulture-backed programme, said: "We signed up as we want to understand different ways to look at productivity and also benchmark ourselves against others in the industry. The visit confirmed that we are on the right track but need to stay focused on efficiencies."

The farm worked with lean consultancy MPL to identify where there is scope to improve. It will serve as one of several case studies within a campaign to encourage growers to adopt lean principles, so helping improve labour efficiencies in the face of the rising cost of labour and concerns about its future availability.

AHDB will shortly send out surveys to growers to understand labour efficiency potential within a range of businesses, with regional "lean" workshops planned for autumn and the followingn spring to share the results.

AHDB knowledge exchange manager Debbie Wilson said: "Automation and robotics may offer longer-term solutions, but with increased pressures from rising labour costs due to the National Living Wage and concerns about availability of labour following the Brexit decision, many growers are looking for solutions to help with their labour costs now."

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