Dairygold Lean Farm programme aims to help farmers ‘worker smarter, not harder’

The first ‘Dairy Lean Farm’ programme in the country has been launched by Dairygold, on a pilot basis, to help farmers ‘worker smarter, not harder’.

‘Lean’ is a management technique used in business to systematically deliver improvements in performance on an on-going basis, according to Dairygold.

The company claims to have successfully applied this technique inside its business over the past five years.

Its Advance 2020 Lean Programme, which was supported by Enterprise Ireland, has delivered improvements across a diverse range of the Society’s operations from logistics, manufacturing and sales to support services and administration.

Dairygold views the launch of this farm-level programme as a natural progression, as farms are a key component of the dairy supply chain.

There were two main drivers behind the decision to launch the programme, Head of Dairy Operations, Tim Healy, said.

“Firstly, we are now nearly two years into post-quota operation and one of the main challenges we are seeing at farm level is labour.

“Farmers are working harder for longer hours, and we believe that lean can be applied to help address this.

“Secondly, our farmers have seen how successful the programme has been inside the factories and were keen to apply lean tools and techniques in their own farming businesses,” he said.

Initial Trials on Dairygold supplier farms

Some initial exploratory work has been carried out on a small number of Dairygold supplier farms.

This delivered positive results on participating farms in terms of reducing effort and helped to develop a structure for the Lean Farm Programme, according to Dairygold.

Sean Moher was one of the early participants to take part in in the initial exploratory work.

“For me one of the benefits was the standardisation of the calf rearing routine.

Now I’m getting that work done in less time with less effort giving me more time for the family, generally improving my work/life balance.

“It’s all about organising yourself and finding the easiest way to do a job, and then standardising that method or approach.

“Sometimes it can be as simple as having your tools at the point of use, eliminating wasted time searching for them. It starts to make your day a lot easier. Working smarter, saving money,” he said.

Programme Extended to a Pilot Group

Following on from the initial farm trials, Dairygold has now extended the Lean Farm programme to a pilot group of 15 Dairygold milk suppliers.

All of these farmers have recently received training in ‘Lean’. Over the coming months Dairygold, with assistance from Teagasc, will be supporting each of them in examining their own on-farm operations, to see where benefits can be achieved.

On successful completion of the ‘Lean Farm’ programme among the pilot group later this year, Dairygold intends to roll it out to a wider supplier base.

Lean is a proven methodology that can really simplify and improve work practices, while also improving safety, quality and ultimately the bottom line in any business, Dairygold Chairman, James Lynch, said.

It has been a great success in Dairygold and as the farm is an integral part of our overall supply chain, it makes sense to see could it work there also.

“The initial results are good. It allows farmers to ‘work smarter not harder’ saving them time, effort and money.”