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The Lean Landscaping Production System

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Business Advice

Lean Landscaping – An Overview

Most contractors in the landscape industry have room to increase the profit line on their financial statements. Many think that they need to increase sales, or add a crew to achieve that increased profit. There is another myth that it is hard to make money with a certain number of employees.

It has been my experience in working with hundreds of landscape contractors and dissecting their financial statements that the most common problem lies in EFFICIENCY. What I am referring to here is really quite simple, if the company invoiced its clients for every hour worked with a proper allowance factor for non-billable hours included in the billable rate, if all of the material, equipment, and subcontracting items were estimated properly on every project a gross capacity can be easily calculated for the company based on the total number of hours the company has available to bill its clients each year. Most companies I have worked with are astonished to realize they are operating at 50 – 70% of their actual capacity. The un-used capacity comes in many forms but ultimately it is WASTE. If you can eliminate the waste it will turn into profit. I would like to challenge every contractor to eliminate the waste and capture the true potential of their current operation before physically adding more people or equipment to the expense column!

Waste comes in many forms, at Landscape Management Network (LMN) we have designed a lean system for waste elimination for landscapers, we call it the Lean Landscape Production system. The Lean Landscape Production system is a waste reduction and continuous improvement system that will provide systems and processes to help landscape companies produce high quality services with an outstanding level of safety, at a competitive price while realizing exceptionally high profits and an increased work-life balance for the employees who follow the systems. We have followed these principles in our own landscape company for almost ten years and have consistently improved profits and employee compensation packages while working less year after year.

By focusing on a few key areas of the landscape business, improvements begin to take place rapidly. LMN provides systems to increase productivity and improve people.


We start by implementing a powerful Hiring and Recruiting system that helps companies develop a capable work force using a process to find and hire the right people, followed by an automated online training and career development program for all of the employees to learn to use the systems.  What we are building here is CULTURE.  To implement Lean Landscaping and really improve daily operations, the people need to be team oriented and prepared to follow the systems and do their part to eliminate waste and help implement improvements constantly.

Continuous Improvement

At the heart of Lean Landscaping lies a continuous improvement program that allows the company to reach full capacity. A landscape company that operates at capacity is capable of compensating its employees much better than the current standard in the industry. People enjoy working in organizations that have systems and processes to refer to since they actually allows people a lot more freedom since the systems run the operation rather than a “micro-manager”. Employees are empowered to make good decisions based on the fact that they have a framework to follow and a repeatable system to use when attempting to complete their duties.

9 Types of Wastes

By teaching employees how to identify waste you begin the improvement cycle. There are nine types of waste: 

  1. Overproduction – Taking unneeded steps while producing the work and using the wrong equipment for the job.
  2. Waiting – Waiting for material, specialized skills, subcontractors, information, or equipment to complete the task at hand.
  3. Unnecessary Transportation – Moving equipment, people, and materials more than required as a result of poor planning.
  4. Excess Inventory – Ordering supplies needed for projects or your facilities results in other wastes.
  5. Unnecessary Movement – Any wasted motion field workers need to make to reach material or equipment during production.
  6. Defective Work – Any work that needs to be re-produced as a result of defects or changes in scope.
  7. Extra Processing – Unused paperwork + reports, relying on inspection instead of proper procedures, unnecessary, inefficient processes. 
  8. Unused Employee Creativity -Losing time, ideas, skills, or improvement ideas by not engaging or listening to employees.
  9. Saying ‘No’ – Resisting change, ignoring waste, and not empowering workers to improve their work processes + procedures.

Lean Landscaping System Principles

Once you have decided to follow the Lean Landscaping Systems (LPS) you will immediately begin to identify waste in your organization and focus on creating systems and processes to prevent that waste from re-occurring in the future. Lean Landscaping is founded on the following principles which will govern the way your company makes future decisions:

  1. Long Term Decision Making – all of your decisions need to be based on long term improvements, even at the expense of the short term gains that could be made using easier or less expensive solutions.
  2. Create Continuous Flow in every Process – all of the systems and processes used in your operation need to be linked together to allow your team to communicate and eliminate the waste in the overall system. The faster the flow the faster the production, as production increases your company will achieve I higher capacity.
  3. Material Management System – By using a proven material management system, field personnel can manage their material requirements more accurately which is often a major source of waste and a flow inhibitor.
  4. Level Out the Work – By estimating and scheduling work using a proven system, a company can ensure that all of the work is being completed efficiently since it is much easier to manage the production needs.
  5. Get it Right the First Time – By building a culture of stopping to fix problems as they occur and completing work properly the first time a company natural eliminates a great deal of waste that usually occurs in re-work.
  6. Standardized Work – By creating standard operating procedures (SOP’s) you can increase quality and speed simply because your employees can make independent decisions and complete their tasks with more confidence.
  7. Use Visual Aids – By adding signs in your facilities and by organizing tools and equipment on the projects with visual aids you can eliminate a great deal of confusion and waste.
  8. Embrace Technology – Using proven technologies to improve communications and obtain maximum efficiencies in all systems and processes.
  9. Develop Exceptional Leaders – Hire and train the right individuals to supervise your people, implement the systems and build your culture.
  10. Become a Learning Organization – By implementing the continuous improvement system and creating a culture of waste elimination your team will crave training and education to improve themselves and the company.

This sounds like a large undertaking – and it is.  I can honestly say that it can be fun and it is very fulfilling.  This is something that has no beginning and end, its something that will be with you and your company throughout your career. It’s a way of doing business. I can assure you that as a business owner if you are looking to make improvements in your work life balance while increasing your profits and company performance this is the solution. You only need to look at the tremendous gains Toyota has made in the North American car market to understand what this LEAN management system will allow you to do in your marketplace.

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