Customers are not just External

One of the key elements of Lean management is understanding that you have internal customers as well as external customers.  It is equally important to understand what your internal customers requirements are, as it is to know your external customer needs.

An example of this is a dairy cow.  She is an internal customer.  Why you may ask?

The dairy cow is an internal customer as she needs to be supplied with the right food, at the right time, at the right quality and the right quantity.  If any of these areas falls down, she will not perform to her greatest potential to supply the right milk that your external customer requires.

Once you start to view your business in this way it is easy to start to examine the different processes involved in achieving the demands for your internal customer.  This doesn’t just apply to a dairy cow; the same principle can be applied to a crop of wheat.  It needs the right seedbed, food, spray, etc to produce the right quality of crop at harvest for the end user’s requirements.

Taking the dairy cow example, if the right quality part of the process is identified as an issue you can then break this process down further and start looking at:  the crop, the harvesting, the storage and the delivery to see which area is a problem.  If it’s the harvesting element, then again you can break this down further to see where the problem is.

This process is best carried out with the whole team on the farm so that each member can contribute to the discussion and point out areas of change that may help.  This is known as bottom up management rather than the managers forcing change on the team, which is top down management.  Top down management is far less effective in bringing about change.  Bottom up management brings better “buy in” from the team as they feel they are influencing the direction of change rather than having a change imposed on them.

If you would like to discuss this process further or other areas of Lean Farm management, please contact Phil Cooper on 07798 673665 or e-mail: