We always want to do better. We run a complex enterprise with many moving parts; I’ve often joked that maybe we should have named this place “Complicated Gifts Farm.” There is always somewhere we could tweak our system to make our lives easier and help us to advance our mission of providing fantastic food to our community. We like to involve our staff in talking about where and how to focus our efforts, so we often like to take some time out in the winter for a “Continuous Improvement” session, where we talk about improving the process of something that we do. We value our crew’s efforts immensely; they are a bunch of hard-working, thoughtful people who care about us and the success of our endeavor. It really is true that we couldn’t do it without them; sometimes the best way to demonstrate that care is to seek their input into improving our sysems. We typically try to focus on something that we spend a lot of time doing, so as to get the most improvement for our workshopping effort.
On Thursday this week, we spent some time in Greenhouse 1 (just because that was where it wasn’t so cold,) and gave the processs of washing harvest totes a couple of hours of trouble-shooting by the people who we place in charge of washing totes. First we list out the steps involved in washing totes, starting with gathering the dirty totes from the various places that they end up, and walking through step by step until they are stacked and ready to go out and be filled with delicious vegetables again. Then we identified the pinch points, or places where we need to improve on the process. Each of those pinch points was then workshopped until we identified how to make the process smoother.
The outcome of this workshop was that our crew pressed our group to be more organized and proactive than we had been willing to ask of them. We committed to making sure that at the end of every work-day, all of the dirty totes will be washed and stacked and ready to go, so that nobody ever has to think about whether totes need to be washed; they just are. Totes that come in to the wash-pack room will be washed by the wash-pack crew before they leave to do something else, and the totes that are outside of that room will be the responsibility of the chores person (we have a rotation of one person every week who does all of the routine animal feeding and greenhouse watering, called the chores person) We also came up with several changes to our infrastucture, including a new water spigot, a better hose sprayer, and stairs going up into the winter tote storage area. And, we will have a posted procedure and standards for how totes get washed, so that our new crew members coming in March can be brought on board as quickly and effectively as possible. You have to love it when your crew wants you to be more organized! We’ll check back in on this one after we have implemented these changes, because continuous improvement doesn’t just happen once.