Wight Salads Group has a turnover of £52M and employs 900 people, with a Head Office in Havant, Hampshire. They are the leading UK supplier of tomatoes with production sites in the UK, Spain and Portugal.
They supply the UK’s major retailers and focus on innovation in all aspects of the business, constantly looking at ways of improving product quality and production efficiency.
With this in mind, Wight Salads looked at LEAN as a means of engaging staff at all levels, to work towards Operational Excellence.
The project’s aim was to focus on the Crop Working and Packhouse processes. It was identified that improvements in these areas would have the biggest impact on reducing fruit wastage and increasing labour efficiency.
The workshops involved around 15 people from both the Packhouse and the Glasshouses. They were trained in the basic principles of LEAN before being shown how to analyse their own processes to identify ways of making improvements.
The group was introduced to Process Mapping analysis where the product is physically followed along the production line and the process broken down into activities, along with times and distances involved. Flow is one of the basic principles within LEAN and the ability to pull the product through to the end customer, in the shortest lead-time possible, is key. This is even more important in fresh food production.
The Process Map provides a visual means by which the team can identify any bottlenecks and by using problem-solving techniques, such as the ‘Five Whys,’ these can be eliminated.
The workshop also covered techniques such as SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) used to reduce the changeover times on machinery or process lines. This allows for shorter changeovers, which in turn allows small production runs and increased supply flexibility. This can lead to increased production capacity or a reduction in finished good stocks.
The workshop participants were shown how to video a product changeover and then analyse the activities involved in order to reduce set-up times. This is achieved by converting ‘internal activities’ (those which must be done when the machine has been stopped), into ‘external activities’, (those which can be performed while the machine is still running).
Reducing machine set-up times has become highly significant with the increase in product variants, especially product and labelling variations. The benefits of reducing the set-up time on a labelling machine can quickly mount up over the period of a week.
Problem-solving activities were also applied to ways of reducing crop wastage by monitoring crop workers and putting in place a method of coaching those that were not achieving the required standard and rewarding those that did.
Using Visual Management techniques, a whiteboard was introduced that provided complete transparency and visibility of the assessment results, allowing Supervisors to focus their time on the staff that needed the most training.
Additional promotional labels were applied by hand. Yet, the purchase of an additional labelling machine was calculated to have a payback of less than 12 months.
Through Activity Sampling, the team identified that time was lost when staff went offline to collect their own packaging materials. This normally ended in a queue of people by the packing pallets. The introduction of a ‘runner’ system allowed the punnets to be delivered in a timely fashion, without the packers moving away from the line.
Wight Salads are now in the process of expanding LEAN activities to other sites within the group, and involving all Supervisors and Team Leaders.