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The Production Target [Farming
Posted on May 8, 2017 @ 06:56:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Last week I travelled to the farm and was busy adding collars to the grape vines. The exercise of adding the collars around the grape vines is teaching me some lessons in scaling up production. The main lesson is the importance of knowing your production target.

Last year, I developed a prototype for a collar that I want to install around my grape vines. It consists of 4 inch Big-O drainage pipe cut into 5 inch sections with a slit in the middle so you can install the collar around the vine. It also requires 2 pins that mount inside the collar and secure the sides of the collar to the ground. Finally, for good measure I add 2 pieces of geotextile fabric with a slit in the middle around each plant, one piece from either side. The collar is then mounted over the geotextile and both are pinned to the ground. The idea is that I should have very little hand weeding to do and when I maintain the rows with my string trimmer I don't have to slow down as I can run the string into the collar without damaging the plant. This is how I hope to remain an organic vineyard without having to do alot of hand weeding. The jury is out on whether this will work or not.

As the spring arrives and the need for hand weeding started to emerge, I decided to pull the pin and to attempt to roll out the prototype for the whole vineyard (going too big too fast without adequate growing feedback is something I worry about). I had gathered pinning material, some rolls of geotextile, and a large roll of Big-O drainage pipe. I lined up two helpers and last week they started installing the collars. The two helpers installed an average of 250 collars a day.

I noticed that my supplies were being used up quickly. I had to make a run for two more 250 foot rolls of Big-O pipe and this weekend I was sourcing more pinning material. I think I'm good for the geotextile material for now but I'll need more. I'll need more of everything.

How much more?

You can't answer such questions without doing alot of counting. In this case, I needed to actually count out the number of vines in the vineyard and the number of apple trees and pear trees I also wanted to collar. The tally comes to approx 3000 plants.

With that number I can now be more realistic about what materials I will need to complete the job, how much money I will have to pay out for installing them, how long the project might take. All these things were vague guesstimates in my head when this project started. The number 3000 focuses the mind and helps me to do more realistic planning. For example, if each collar is 5 inches long and I need 3000 collars, then that equals 15,000 inches. Divide that number by 12 inches and you get 1,250 feet of Big O drainage pipe. I will need 2 more rolls (250 ft per roll) to complete the job (purchased 750 ft to date). I'll have to budget for that cost.

Likewise, anyone manufacturing a widget should define a production target and then build a set of production and cost numbers around that target. It would have been nice to have known what my production target was before going into this project so I could have had necessary parts ordered and ready and some idea of what my total costs would be. The production target doesn't have to be fully accurate and exact, it just needs to get you in the ballpark so you can start estimating costs and requirements. When rolling out a prototype into larger quantities you also have to cut yourself some slack because there are lots of unknowns and the first time through the production cycle will be when you grasp more of the details of the production process.

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