This is a final research report from Hort Innovation’s historical archives. Please note that as these reports may date back as far as the 1990s, the content and recommendations within them may be superseded by more recent research.
What was it all about?
The investigation of potting labour costs had been carried out by a team of researchers from the Queensland Department of Primary Industries in collaboration with the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian Nursery Industry Associations. All of the investigative work had been carried out on representative nurseries in these states.
The aim of the project had been to identify and recommend methods for improving nursery labour efficiencies in the area of potting up. The project had progressed through stages that resulted in the following major outcomes:
- Labour cost components of the potting operation were identified
- Potting production inefficiencies were identified and solutions proposed
- Benchmarks for the potting operation were developed
- A potted plant handling system had been developed and commercialised
- Training resource material had been developed
Though research had confirmed that the vast majority of Australian nurseries operated with excessive production labour costs, nurseries displayed a notable lack of motivation and success in attempting to improve their production efficiency. This was because nurseries had no access to information on how they compared with other nurseries in terms of production efficiency. As a result of this:
- Some nurseries chose to believe they were doing much better than everyone else and did not attempt to improve their production efficiency
- Some nurseries accept they were inefficient but did not know exactly how inefficient they were or how they could improve
- Some attempted to improve efficiency but had no idea of their level of efficiency or the level they should have been aiming for, typically basing their improvements on untested, non objective information and therefore failled to achieve any significant improvement or achieve a negative result (ie. production costs increase)
- The last and smallest group (estimated at not more than 1 per cent of all production nurseries), despite being unaware of their level of efficiency or the level they should have been aiming for, tried and did achieve some improvement in their production efficiency although not always in terms of an acceptable cost benefit result.
In order to maximise the benefit of research, the engineering section at DPI was proposing to establish a permanent, full time centre for nursery production research. Nursery industry members and allied manufacturers would be encouraged to use the centre's research data and information for their mutual gain and researchers would be able to continually monitor, investigate and report on all aspects affecting nursery production.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the voluntary financial support of the nursery industry.
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