The Problem

At Smith Gardens in Aurora, Oregon – a greenhouse operation that serves customers throughout the Pacific Northwest – the process of selecting hanging baskets was unstable and no standard work was established, including the determination of crew size. The product was batch-pulled using a large scissor lift, and as a result, plants piled up and had to be worked around and managed. Batching led to counting errors, over-fertilizing, and other over-processing issues. Equipment use was unknown and varied based on “tribal knowledge” and what happened to be available at the time. There were also safety issues with crew members walking on the benches, reaching for baskets, and standing on a trolley to select baskets.

The current process required 735 minutes to select 224 baskets. Crew members were walking 633 feet, and the crew needed 42 minutes to set up for selecting. Productivity was 18 units per hour; cost per unit was 82 cents.

How We Solved the Problem

loading-basketsThe Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium worked with the Smith Gardens selecting team to apply lean principles to create a new “least waste way” to select hanging baskets. The team looked carefully at each step to see where value was being added to the customer, and worked to eliminate steps that did not add value.

Working together, the team applied the principles of one piece flow and kanban to prevent batching of product. Instead of using a large scissor lift to batch 60 baskets in the platform, the team is now using a smaller scissor lift and established flow by aligning team members. A “kit cart” system was established to provide the selecting team all of its needed materials at the point of use, dramatically reducing setup time. The kaizen team created well-documented standard work supported by visual controls.

Value to Client

  • Cut lead time 76%
  • Reduced people travel by 79%
  • Reduced setup time 86 – 90%, depending on equipment used
  • Increased units per worker hour by 206%
  • Decreased cost per unit from 82 cents per unit to 17 cents – nearly 80% improvement
Being part of the Lean Consortium has helped us bring in fresh eyes to our processes. It has also allowed us to collaborate with folks within the nursery industry in ways that we could have not done otherwise. Every individual in the Consortium brings a new set of strengths, which helps propel the team forward. It is very helpful when you have trained individuals that are able to see the waste quickly and that have bias for action to eliminate it.
Andres Alamillo
Inventory Manager and Lean Captain
Smith Gardens - Aurora, OR