Scarborough Fare is a horticultural production unit in New Zealand, growing premium grade, fresh-cut culinary herbs throughout the year. They have been changing to a KAIZEN™ system since 2015.
Covering approximately three hectares, and growing mostly under-cover, Scarborough Fare products have been distributed through the wholesale produce market since 2004. It finds its end-users in cafés and restaurants across New Zealand.
According to director, Jeanette Rea, Scarborough Fare operated for years below its potential which prompted them to start their KAIZEN™ journey in May 2015 with an initial focus on improving process performance. Her systematic approach and instinct to find better ways, led to the development of many new processes and procedures on the farm, working closely with co-director, Pam Maurice, to find practical solutions to the burning issues. However, they needed a holistic and structured approach to bring about stepped and sustained change. The potential cost-benefits through a KAIZEN™ change programme convinced the owners to change for the better.
The KAIZEN™ concept was introduced to Jeanette during a casual conversation with a family member, also a business woman. She was fascinated and researched this proven philosophy before setting out to find a reputable consultancy. The business also received government funding (up to 50%), initially through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Capability Development Voucher Scheme, and later through Callaghan Innovation’s Better by Lean program (Kaizen Institute New Zealand is a registered service provider on both funding schemes).
The KAIZEN™ program at Scarborough Fare helped the business to understand and define what ‘change-for-the-better’ is from their customers’ viewpoint: it must be easy to deal with the business, their herbs must be of superior quality at competitive prices, and their lead-times must be tight. This has increasingly been realized through continuously doing standard tasks in a better way. The creation, review and improvement of standards has been a cornerstone of satisfying their expanding customer base.
The business owners knew early on that they were making progress with KAIZEN™ when they saw the undisputable value of establishing standards. Once performance targets were set, understood, pursued and reflected upon, daily improvements became easier by means of toolbox meetings and the effective use of team boards. The subsequent discipline enabled teams to reach their well-defined performance targets.
Team performance is nowadays monitored continuously on tablets through an in-home developed, on-line application. Initially the teams visualised their progress and problems on flip charts at the coalface. However, through their continuous improvement efforts they were able to introduce this uncomplicated technology for the collection of data, measurement and management of their daily activities. The day’s performance is still summarized on hand-drawn graphs to be analyzed during the next day’s toolbox meeting; this enhances staff engagement. This focus on results and the process itself, culminated in the more efficient flow of their herbs through their value stream.
Improved interaction and streamlined communication between, and within, teams is achieved through standardized activities like daily stand-up meetings, KANBAN, kamishibai cards and good “5S” (workplace organization). It seemed that everything started to flow better since the teams galvanized and became “like-minded”. Developing better attitudes has been achieved by making it easier for staff to do their work and to improve their workplace independently, based on good standards and clear expectations.
Jeanette Rea says that Kaizen Institute New Zealand has been an inspiration to help improve the business through regular coaching and mentoring. Selecting the relevant KAIZEN™ tools and techniques ensured that the real problems of the business have been solved. Says Jeanette:
“Their consultants are a huge source of KAIZEN™ knowledge and business expertise. Their hands-on approach showed great skill in developing our workers, sharing the load with me in integrating Daily KAIZEN™ into the Picking and Packing teams. We are currently working on changes in Production.”
Reflecting on their journey so far, Jeanette provides the following insights to a business that wants to apply the KAIZEN™ approach:
- Believe instinctively in its inherent value - don’t wait to be convinced;
- Embrace the concepts of discipline and habit;
- Realize it will be a long road trip that takes time and commitment;
- Be prepared to do the “small stuff” to get the show on the road;
- Look forward to a better organized workplace where communication is flowing into action and outcomes;
- Arrange a field visit to Scarborough Fare to see KAIZEN™ in action (terms and conditions apply).
Their future KAIZEN™ efforts will focus on the full integration of the Production team into the KAIZEN™ way. Simultaneously, Scarborough Fare will continue to improve their people and processes and this will come to fruition through the coaching of middle management into the next level of Continuous Improvement.
Scarborough Fare is a good example of how the structured and disciplined approach of KAIZEN™ can lead to business growth, cost reductions, and excellence in quality and Lead Times. They have taken the correct approach with the introduction of technology: it must be preceded by the continuous improvement of processes and people.
Nonetheless, according to the legendary founder of Kaizen Institute, Masaaki Imai, the current way of providing quality herbs to their customers is the worst way they can do it… because if KAIZEN™ is truly practiced, it should be better tomorrow!