Potting rates rocket at Bransford Webbs

The Bransford Webbs Plant Company has achieved a more than 50 per cent increase in potting rates in one year after employing lean production techniques learned through the Nursery Business Improvement Scheme (NBIS).

The improvement came through the work of NBIS chairman Will George, who has been undertaking a project to benchmark potting rates and calculate the costs for potting different sizes.

George collated the rates of businesses across the country in a bid to develop clear information on the cost-effectiveness of different techniques. He discovered "incredible disparity" in the figures, including the "staggering rate" of more than 600 units per man hour achieved at Fairweather's Nursery.

"On first sight of the rates Fairweather's was reporting, we thought there must be a mistake in the figures because they were so good," explained Bransford managing director Geoff Caesar.

"At our last meeting we again compared potting rates where ours had improved from 433 units per man hour in 2009 to 675 units per man hour in 2010. This included supply and prep of plugs and potting down of the 9cm plants."

He added: "I think Fairweather's are reporting a rate of 666 units per man hour for a similar type of plug. It's not all about machinery and systems - James Allen, who runs our 9cm potting operation, is superb at setting the machine up and supervising his small team of staff."

The project coincided with work by Bransford propagation manager Karl O'Neil who has been working on improving potting rates for 9cm plants for two years.

O'Neil focused on rationalising plug sizes and types of plugs, moving the potting operation into the house in which the 9cm plants are grown, using a double pot dispenser that can cope with second hand pots and potting onto CC trolleys.

Fairweather's owner Patrick Fairweather said potting rates were part of ongoing work on lean techniques that have helped the company radically improve productivity over the past decade.

"This year we have had a bit of software developed for our production plan," he pointed out. "It removes all of the information that is not absolutely vital because previously it involved the system getting cluttered with unnecessary information."

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