And now for something completely different

Sep 28, 2020

The corona crisis makes traveling for a consultant difficult, if not impossible. That is why the question asked by Marco Deckers came just in time.
Henk, we are looking at picking on a different angle on our farm. GTL Europe is building my new farm with the tilting shelf system and we are creating a sparring team to start this up.
Now, that’s what I call a challenge.

akkies tuin picking from a different angleThe system is so completely different that picking has to be re-designed.
The pickers are not standing sideways to the shelf but they are facing it and they have to learn to pick with two hands at the same time.
At the same moment we have to get them on a level where they can work in a high tech environment where they have to keep an eye on moving belts, tilting shelves and moving trollies. And yes, they also have to learn how to pick mushrooms at a good speed.

The first thing we did was to create a good team of new pickers and new supervisors. Because also in supervising the job is different. It is very simple to control quality and size of mushrooms because every mushroom you see coming out of the room on the conveyor belt has just been picked. So corrections on size or quality can be made immediately. You do not have to wait for the first trays of mushrooms to come out of the room. So supervising is easier. The biggest change for the supervisor in this case is more in the logistic and technical areas.
For the pickers the change is bigger.
Picking with two hands sounds nice but everyone is either right- or left handed. Only few people are double handed in their natural movement. This means that every picker has a preference to pick most mushrooms with one hand and a few in the other hand.
But this was actually easier to learn than expected. One thing that helps is the picking position. The height can per perfect so the picker does not have to bend the lower back or overstretch arms. It was simply a trick the had to learn. A mind set to position the arms that way as if it is one movement. The one thing they had to learn was to pick within eyesight and keep the arms together.

All together it is surprising to see that most of the pickers like the system a lot. Picking is fast and at the end of the day nobody is complaining about neck or shoulder problems. The usual complaints of a picker after a long day of picking. It has to be said though that the picker has to be told to put the platform at the right position. Pickers all over the world are a bit stubborn and if it is nearly right, for them it is okay. But it may not be the perfect position.
Looking back now we can draw a few conclusions.
It is better to start with pickers who have no experience in picking.
The supervisor is the main person in the team. Even more than in a traditional system. There is more technique involved and the supervisor needs to see possible problems fast and solve them
People have no problems with the environment full of moving parts. Even the opposite, they like it because it makes the work easier.
Training is essential. That is why at the moment we are writing a manual for that system on that particular farm. And again, in the training the supervisor (picking manager) is the key person.

And as a consultant you have to keep an open mind about the system and the way of picking. From the start till now you can say we started with system 2.0. Now we are already operating on system 5.0. It is evolving and growing in an exciting way. That is the benefit of having a good sparring team with the farm managemant, building company, picking staff and consultant.


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