Oregon Lean Group Boosts Value for Marion Ag Service and its Customers

The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium helped one of its new members reduce process steps by 55 percent on an order fulfillment process. The improvement was made during Marion Ag’s first hosted improvement event with the Consortium, held at the company’s new fertilizer processing facility in Aurora, Ore.

The team focused on the process of fulfilling a customer’s order, targeting the extra time and steps involved. Company leaders had a goal of reducing non-value-added activity by 25 percent. The improvement team exceeded these expectations, cutting steps by more than half and increasing the value-added ratio by 112 percent.

“Rarely do you have the opportunity to open up a process to new ideas, fresh eyes, and unique perspectives,” said John Hockett, Marion Ag Service Head of Sales. “The Lean Consortium provides us the environment to rethink and improve our processes with our customers’ input.”

Members of the Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium have committed to learning and applying Lean principles together for one year. Top practitioners in each company meet for rapid improvement sessions at a hosting site each month.

The event at Marion Ag Service was also the consortium’s first application of process mapping this year—a visual technique for exposing waste. Process maps are excellent tools for helping participants understand each other’s tasks and the impacts each has in the overall flow of an organization. They are often used for business processes where time observations are difficult to capture and where many hand-offs in information, signatures or approvals occur.

Lean is a proven method for eliminating waste that results in more value to customers delivered at a lower cost, in a shorter time, with fewer defects and less human effort. Initial results are often dramatic. It is common to see double- or triple-digit productivity improvements the first time Lean is effectively deployed in an area.

Seven companies are involved in the Oregon consortium this year: Eshraghi Nurseries, JLPN, Marion Ag Service, PRT Oregon, Robinson Nursery, Smith Gardens Aurora, and Woodburn Nursery & Azaleas. A second Lean consortium was launched recently in the Puget Sound region. Companies interested in participating can contact Elizabeth Peters, 503-250-2235 or epeters@petersco.net for information and an application form. To learn more about what a lean consortium is, visit www.petersco.net/consortium.