Solnechny Dar complex doubles the speed of tomato harvesting, packing, and shipping with lean production solutions

Proizvoditelnost.RF (“Productivity.RF”) magazine published an article devoted to the production achievements of the Solnechny Dar greenhouse complex. The joint efforts of experts from the Federal Competence Center (FCC) and the company’s employees led to workflow optimization and significant performance improvement.

For the second year in a row now, the greenhouse complex, being a part of the ECO-Culture holding, has been actively participating in the “Labor Productivity” national project. In cooperation with the FCC, a new operational approach was introduced at the benchmark flow ” Harvesting – packing – shipping of red medium-sized tomatoes”.

The crop takes up about 90% of the total production. Once introduced, the improvements offered by the experts increased the total production of the line by 26% and halved the process run time, with work-in-progress decreasing by 60%. The specialists also managed to effectively solve the downtime problem of the filling and packaging equipment. After a preliminary hour-by-hour analysis of the process, a new standard was developed. This resulted in a reduction of the turnaround time from 72 to 15 minutes.

The experts also suggested changing the design of the conveyor. This reduced the speed of processing a box of vegetables by 30 seconds. Consequently, the daily box output increased from 100 to 130 tons.

Lean production techniques are not only about accelerating work processes but also about saving resources. As part of the innovative approach, FCC suggested altering the format of crop transportation from the greenhouses to the harvesting area. Not only does the new method optimize employee labor, but it reduces transportation costs as well.

Increased output combined with reduced production costs yields an annual savings of 12.7 million rubles. That, however, is not the only benefit to be gained from the introduction of “lean production techniques”. It also reduces the amount of time needed to move a tomato from the bush to a store shelf. This ensures that customers will buy the freshest tomatoes possible. With the vegetables produced by ECO-Culture classified as “fresh”, the reduction of the time it takes to deliver a harvested tomato to the consumer becomes a key competitive advantage.

The FCC expert group sees its purpose not as one-time assistance in production improvement, but as a systematic transfer of knowledge and skills to enhance the efficiency of the company’s employees. In other words, the long-term objective of the partnership project is personnel training. Moreover, this process is integrated into routine practice and precisely synchronized with the stages of the expert team’s activities. This way, the greenhouse employees can access tools to improve operations and processes exactly at the time those tools are needed. As a result, practices get transformed into specific skills or, in some cases, into breakthrough initiatives.

While ECO-Culture’s products are distributed across the largest Russian retail chains, many consumers now regard them as the benchmark of quality for greenhouse vegetables. After all, domestic environmentally friendly tomatoes offered by the holding are superior to the foreign ones in terms of their taste and therefore play an important role in import substitution.

For the full article with figures and calculations, please find issue #12 of “Proizvoditelnost.RF” on the FCC’s website.