Lean-inspired development work in agriculture: Implications for the work environment
¹KTH Royal Institute of Technology, School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Health Systems, Division of Ergonomics, Hälsovägen 11C, SE-141 57 Huddinge, Sweden
²RISE - Research Institutes of Sweden, Division of Bioeconomy and Health, Agriculture and Food, Box 7033, SE-750 50 Uppsala, Sweden
³HELIX - Competence Centre, Linköping University, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden
Farmers operate in a turbulent environment that includes international competition, weather conditions and animal behaviour, for example, and is difficult for them to control. However, economy and productivity always have a high priority. As a consequence, farms have started to implement lean-inspired work systems. At the same time, health and safety are of urgent concern in the sector. This article explores how famers apply lean-inspired work processes. It identifies work environment changes during and after a lean implementation, as well as possible developments in the work environment following implementation of the lean philosophy. Data were collected from three groups: lean, lean-light and development-inclined reference farms (in total 54 farms), using a questionnaire and interviews. The results indicate that a majority of the lean farms were applying several lean principles and tools, and the lean philosophy. The lean-light farms applied parts of the lean concept, while the reference farms applied some of the more general tools, used in lean and elsewhere, such as visualisation in various forms and to various extents. The results showed positive effects of lean on the psychosocial work environment, better work structure and improved information, communication and co-operation. The physical work environment was improved to some extent by lean, where advantages such as a more structured and practical work environment with less physical movements and locomotion could be noticed. The lean concept provided a more structured and systematic approach to dealing with work and production environmental issues, for managers as well as for employees.