Wittman grain harvest

Transform Close Calls Into Improved No-Till Operations

Developing standard operating procedures can streamline operations, improve safety and eliminate waste, staff turnover and confusion, says no-tiller and business consultant Dick Wittman.

Consider this hypothetical: A farmer runs a series of semi tractor-trailers through a port of entry and knows that if the semis are overloaded, he’ll be fined. So to avoid the fines, the farmer underloads just a bit because he or she doesn’t know how heavy each truckload is.

At the end of the season, the farmer analyzes all the tickets and sees the trucks were, on average, under by 40 bushels. Barring the small amount of additional fuel it would’ve required if the trucks had been full, it wouldn’t have cost him any more to get those 40 bushels per load to town.

According to farm business consultant Dick Wittman, 40 bushels may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a harvest, it could represent thousands of dollars wasted through inefficiency. Applying the concept of process improvement can help farmers eliminate this sort of waste, streamline operations and add to the bottom line, says the longtime Lewiston, Idaho no-tiller. In this case, a $5,000 investment in a scale on the grain cart saw a pay back period of only a half of a normal harvest.

So what is process improvement? According to Wittman, it’s “identifying jobs that are repetitive, documenting how they’re supposed to be performed with a standard operating procedure (SOP) or a good practice, and evaluating how to do it better.

“And how do you define better? It’s more efficient, safer, more economical and/or environmentally sustainable,” Wittman told attendees at the National No-Tillage Conference…

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Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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