Lean Landscaping

By Ron Updated on May 23rd, 2017


Some people say mixing Lean and Six Sigma with your home life is wrong. I couldn’t disagree more. I mean come on… are we supposed to just stop trying to make things better after leaving the plant? That makes no sense to me at all. So let me share with you how I recently tried to “Lean out” some landscaping work at my house.Two weekends ago we put in a brick and stone retaining wall around our flower beds (see picture). After getting it all in place we needed to fill in the low spots with topsoil – lots of it (48 bags to be exact).

So, this past Saturday, my kiddos and I headed to Home Depot for some top soil. Once I got home I pulled the Toyota Sienna (an amazing vehicle in more ways than one) up as close to the flower beds as possible. This was to eliminate wasted transportation by moving the materials (topsoil) to point of use.

Once in position I picked up one bag of topsoil from the minivan and carried it to the flower bed where I opened it up and dumped it in. Some “less lean” people would likely first unload all the bags around the flower bed and then go back and dump them all in. Ha! I didn’t fall for that little mass production-ish trick. Its one piece flow dirt dumping for me all the way, baby!

Once I emptied the bags into the flower bed my two daughters (2 and 4 years old) were superb spreaders so I didn’t have to do this task. This was an excellent example of cross training and parallel processing. While they were busy spreading (and throwing dirt at each other when I turned my back) I walked back towards the minivan where I had strategically placed one of those brown Home Depot lawn bags. This allowed me to throw away my now empty bag while not breaking stride on my way to get another load. This had Standard Work Layout written all over it.

I was quite proud of my little Lean Landscaping system until my sensei wife can out to see our progress. I proudly explained how good my system was working. Was she impressed? Ummm… not so much.

First, she explained that only grass clippings are supposed to go into the brown Home Depot bags and that I now had to empty the bag into a proper garbage bag which adds an extra step. I snapped back that I didn’t want to fight through the mess in the garage to get the garbage can out. To which she then replied, “Sounds like some 5S may be in the works.” Then she told me I had used the wrong dirt and needed to take it all up. OK, I made that last part up but man that would have been a great example of not understanding value from the customer’s perspective! Luckily, she was fine with the topsoil I chose.

This was actually a good lesson in humility for me. You see, the minute you become proud and brag about what you have accomplished someone will surely be able to tell you all the ways you can do it better. And coming up with ways to do things better – even landscaping – is a great thing. After all, that’s kaizen!

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