‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’ is one of those truisms frequently preached by management gurus. That’s actually very true, but once you get beyond a certain scale, measuring, especially measuring what work people do, can become a very onerous task. And, having measured and collated all the data you need, how do you filter out the bits of information you actually need from the enormous amount of data that’s been gathered?
That was the dilemma facing Cornerways Nursery, the 18 Ha subsidiary of British Sugar that now employs 250 pickers and crop workers on its huge tomato production unit in Norfolk.
Nick Arnst, Greenhouse Operations Manager at Cornerways, opted for Priva FS Performance as the best tool to grapple with the data mountain generated by Cornerways day to day. FS Performance collects data via portable handsets carried by each worker which they use to input data or scan tags containing all the information Nick needs about who is doing the work, where the work is being done, how long it takes and how much has been achieved. CMW Horticulture made sure that the system was up and running in time for the start of the picking season.
For Cornerways, the main objective is to monitor the picking, with recording crop work being a bonus.
Because all Cornerways’ production is harvested directly into punnets, Nick had found that the amount of paperwork involved to keep up with it all had become unmanageable before he installed FS Performance.
Now, as we approach the end of the first season of use, how well has the Priva management system worked?
Acceptance of the new way of working turned out to be no problem: ‘The workers took to FS Performance very well. Most understood why we wanted to put in a system like this and could instantly see their results from the day’s picking. Most new starters take an hour or so to pick up the correct way of scanning, but after a full first day most have the basics covered,’ says Nick
Of course, mistakes can happen with any system, so a worker might initially forget to scan a finished row but remember after finishing a second or third row and end up scanning all the completed rows in a short time. ‘One of the great things about the system is that errors like this are automatically highlighted and easily corrected by splitting the time across all of those rows to give an average’ explains Nick
The FS Performance system uses a Priva Wi-Fi network around the site to transmit the recorded data to the server immediately. Not only does this mean that Nick can follow how the picking is going during the day from his PC, but with TV screens in the canteen and the centre of the nursery, workers can also keep track of their own performance. Nick says that this has not only led to a gradual improvement in productivity through the year but also become a useful tool for coaching anyone whose performance may be lagging behind. As well as providing data on individual performance, the system also shows production per row.
The first year with FS Performance has been mainly about ensuring that all the workers have anchored the scanning system for production in their picking routine completely, but climate and irrigation data are also recorded, a feature that Cornerways intend to make fuller use of next year. Other features such as labour planning, production forecasts and registration of crop information, pests and diseases will also come into full use next season.
That mountain of paper data that used to be a headache for Nick has now gone. Reports are a lot quicker to generate because no data has to be entered manually anymore.
The first picking season with FS Performance will soon be over, but that means that the two-week turnaround between crops is just around the corner too. ’We’re looking forward to that’ says Nick. ‘We should get some good new labour data then that will help us to drive further improvement.’