September 17, 2014

Markus Lattner | Lean Manufacturing in Agriculture

Markus Lattner

Markus Lattner

Markus Lattner has learned quite a bit about improving processes in agriculture in his position as an improvement manager for a Schuykill County, Pennsylvania community supported agriculture farm. The farm is proudly chemical-free, Markus Lattner says, embracing his dedication to the environment.

Today, Markus Lattner talks to Interviewing Experts about how he thinks lean manufacturing concepts can help vegetable growers streamline operations.

Interviewing Experts: Markus Lattner, welcome. Now, to clarify, the term ‘lean manufacturing’ originated in the auto industry, right?

Markus Lattner: Right. Toyota put the process in motion, back when the car manufacturer was called Toyoda. They looked at Ford’s system of flow and saw the value of variety, as opposed to producing one model in one color. They developed what is now called the Toyota Production System (TPM).

Interviewing Experts: For those of us who have never heard of it before, what does “lean manufacturing” mean?

Markus Lattner: That’s a good question, but let me expand on it a bit. Lean thinking, since it is not only used in manufacturing environments, looks at maximizing value for the customer.

Interviewing Experts: Like what, for instance?

Markus Lattner: In many businesses, waste can be as much as 100%. Lean manufacturing encourages a company to find this waste and work to eliminate it.

Interviewing Experts: What kind of waste does an agricultural farmer have?

Markus Lattner: One problem we’ve worked to eliminate at the farm is the overproduction of crops.  We have found that much of a crop just goes to waste.

Interviewing Experts: What are some of the obstacles vegetable growers face in incorporating lean thinking?

Markus Lattner: One of the biggest problems I’ve seen is a failure to follow through. Many of us have great ideas but if we don’t know how to implement them and follow through, we never see the rewards.

Interviewing Experts: What do you recommend vegetable growers do to make sure they can see the rewards with lean thinking once they implement improvements?

Markus Lattner: First, I’ve found that writing up procedures really helps. Having it in black and white really makes a difference. Create daily checklists and hold yourself and your workers accountable.

Interviewing Experts: Do you find farmers tend to think of lean manufacturing as a separate program from their normal work?

Markus Lattner: Yes, and it’s important that they come to incorporate it into their daily work. Eliminating waste isn’t a standalone initiative. It’s a way of doing business, day after day.

Interviewing Experts: I agree. What benefits have you found from incorporating lean manufacturing?

Markus Lattner: Less waste, but also more productivity. Farms are able to focus their attention on productive work, which brings in more money and makes employees feel as though they are contributing.

Interviewing Experts: Thank you for speaking with us today, Mr. Lattner. Markus Lattner is an experienced manufacturing manager and lean improvement specialist.

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