FlowVision Helps North Creek Nursery Drives a Lean Flow Culture Change

Highlights:

  • No seven day workweeks
  • Optimized facility usage and product flow

The Business Challenges:

Like many horticultural businesses, North Creek’s operating costs and pricing pressures continually increase, and its margins were shrinking. Founder Steve Castorani and General Manager Tim McGinty knew that a fundamental change would be essential. As Steve puts it, “revenue hides all sins – until times get tough.” They knew that North Creek’s operations had to become efficient to remain competitive. Steve saw a compelling lean flow presentation at the International Plant Propagators’ Society, led by Gary Cortés of FlowVision, LLC and Dave Van Belle of Van Belle Nurseries, and learned even more as he chatted with them afterwards. At this point, Steve had confirmed lean’s worthiness as a business strategy.

The FlowVision Solution:

Steve and Tim realized that to establish and sustain lean benefits, they would need to change the North Creek culture and transition their workforce into that culture, and for this they would need proven outside lean expertise. To begin this effort for themselves and their employees, they began Jim Paluch’s Working Smarter Program. For the physical and logical lean transformation of their operations processes, Steve and Tim engaged FlowVision, LLC.

Implementation:

With FlowVision’s assistance, North Creek transformed their very challenging shipping processes. Tim candidly observes that not everyone was interested in adopting the new culture and practices, and North Creek had some employee turnover as a result. North Creek, its workforce and its customers are now enjoying the benefits of their successful lean flow culture – better productivity and repeatability, increased predictability, optimized facility usage and product flow, rare weekend overtime, no seven-day weeks and no need for transferring production workforce to shipping.

North Creek’s lean culture continues to move ahead. As for those facility upgrades, they are in the works. The workforce will soon be learning and using more lean techniques, such as 5S. The production processes are to be redesigned using the proven lean flow tools that improved shipping.

Steve’s lean goals range from fundamental to lofty: he wants North Creek to continue, and to be successful into the future. He’s determined to provide processes, products and facilities that the employees can take pride in.

Steve says frankly, “There’s a point where you’ve got to stop making excuses” and make the lean culture change. He continues that a successful lean flow effort “gets everybody to take ownership and get involved.” Steve’s advice for those considering undertaking the lean flow journey: see your long-term goals and stick with them to get there, because “the business can pull you away from what’s important.”