Best Production Manager - Winner Jonathan Marquis, Lovania Nurseries

Jonathan Marquis was appointed head of garden centre production at Lovania Nurseries in 2013 and immediately started work identifying improvements to bring greater profitability to the company, while strengthening its reputation in the market. The areas targeted included quality, product range, production and operational procedures, and wastage.

Best Production Manager - Winner Jonathan Marquis, Lovania Nurseries
Best Production Manager - Winner Jonathan Marquis, Lovania Nurseries

Achievements to date include reducing wastage from 11 per cent in 2013 to 6.5 per cent in 2014 and three per cent in 2015. The initial volume of plants produced was reduced (4.2 million in 2013, 3.3 million in 2014 and 3.9 million in 2015), while sales increased by more than 35 per cent during this three-year period.

An all-encompassing production plan was introduced with a clear focus on supplier details, product format, plug sizes and production timings. This enabled constant monitoring of budgets, space availability and supplier issues.

Price bands were agreed with suppliers, resulting in a saving of two per cent on 2014 plug purchase costs despite volumes decreasing. Suppliers are offered a structured route to market, ensuring confidence in Lovania's ability to deliver a quality product in the interest of both the grower and its suppliers.

Lovania's 30-strong production team has been empowered to embrace change in all areas. There are regular team meetings and one-to-ones, while clear personal objectives are set. Outside agencies have also been brought in to lead and facilitate LEAN workshops to further focus on the standards required to achieve the company's goals.

Crop management improvements include the introduction of peat-reduced growing media and more recently peat-free - also better hygiene, watering application, systems and quality. A reverse osmosis unit has been installed to improve the quality of borehole water, reducing waste at the Westlands site.

A growing team has been created, tasked with embracing new initiatives including the use of bio-stimulants and biopesticides while implementing a full crop management programme. An integrated pest management programme, incorporating Hypoaspis (sciarid and thrips control), Encarsia (whitefly control) and Trichogramma (caterpillar control), has reduced reliance on traditional pesticides as well as operative spraying hours.

A tracker system that enables Lovania's sales team to plan monthly volume availability and react to either excessive or reduced stock levels has also been introduced.

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