I was fascinated about the concept of lean manufacturing since I first read the articles on lean manufacturing. Then when I conducted few researches on lean manufacturing I understood that lean is the path for future.
But one question continuously I asked myself is the possibility of applying lean manufacturing concepts in the field of agriculture and food industry. Agriculture is traditionally based on bulk manufacturing. Harvesting is done once a season most of the times and stocked and used later. In fact some lean thinkers say that people adopted batch processing and stocking in manufacturing as a result of the practices from agricultural thinking. Before the industrialization people with the biggest stocks of food and other supplies were considered as more stable and they were able to face challenges of nature without having to starve. People with time develop the concept of having more stocks is better. When people gradually moved to industrialization, still the concept of maintaining big safety stocks hasn’t changed according to these lean thinkers.
Agriculture is an industry which requires a new way of thinking. Traditional methods have lots of wastes and inefficiencies build into them. According to some researches more than 20% of agricultural products become unusable before it reach the end consumer in some countries. This offers any lean thinker a good opportunity to explore the possibilities of implementing lean concepts in this area. Even if we can reduce this waste by half we will be reducing the number of people dying due to starvation.
Just in time manufacturing may not be possible in the field of agriculture. But the distribution, handling methods etc can be improved with the techniques like JIT and kaizen. By educating people and using simple technology waste can be reduced dramatically. Effectively connecting the manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers up to the customer is very necessary to improve the effectiveness of the process.