The True Cost of Hand-Trimming: A Case Study

Occasionally, we see comments from folks that believe machine trimming beats up the flower and breaks off the trichomes. While we can’t speak for our competitors, it’s certainly not true of the M108. But this argument misses the point entirely: hand-trimming is not an option for any cultivator that is operating (or has intentions to operate) at a large, commercial-scale. Let’s break down the true costs of hand-trimming. We’ll use the example of Aurora’s Sky facility in Edmonton. This facility boasts 800,000 square feet of greenhouse, and when operating at full-capacity will have an annual output of 100,000kg per year, or 220,000 lbs/yr.

Here’s some baseline assumptions + numbers for our scenario:

  • A good hand-trimmer can trim 2.5 lbs per day
  • Hand-trimmers will be paid $20 per hour
  • There are 250 workdays in a year
  • 880 lbs / day will need to be trimmed

Based on this information, Aurora Sky would need a bare minimum of 352 full-time hand-trimmers. Let’s look at some of the costs associated.

 352 (hand trimmers)
x 8 (hours in workday)
x 20 (hourly wage)
____________________________________________________
$56,320 PER DAY

  • Labor cost per day: $56,320
  • Labor cost per year (250 workdays): $14,080,000

The case study could stop there, but let’s dig a little deeper. Here’s what else they would need if they opted for hand-trimming:

• BENEFITS:

The average cost of healthcare to the company, per employee, is approximately $200 per month, or $2400 per year.

 352 hand-trimmers
x $2400 (cost of benefits per year)
____________________________________________________
$844,800 PER YEAR
in employee benefits.

• SPACE & INFRASTRUCTURE:

Space requirements for 352 people at any one time would be massive. Sky would need a very large space for them to sit and work. They’d need a cafeteria suitable to fit that many people. If these employees used stocked plastic utensils only twice per week, that’s an additional $18,000 per year in plastic utensils alone. Sky would need huge locker rooms for these employees to store their belongings while they work. There would need to be many more and much larger bathrooms, stocked with additional toilet paper, paper towels, and soap. All of these additional spaces would need to be cleaned and sanitized every day, meaning Sky would need a substantially larger janitorial staff. Exterior infrastructure would need to be much larger too, for example, a much bigger parking lot would be needed for the additional cars.

• EQUIPMENT:

Hand-trimmers need shears. A good pair can cost $20, but a great pair can cost much more. These would need to be replaced regularly with heavy use, at least once per quarter.

352 hand-trimmers
x 4 sets of shears per quarter
x $20 cost per set of shears
____________________________________________________
$28,160

The shears would need to be cleaned and disinfected every day. There would be additional costs associated with this, as well as additional labour required.

• SAFETY / SANITARY CLOTHING:

Each person at Sky wears a lab coat, shoe covers, hair nets, and gloves. Some wear beard nets. Minus the beard net, this costs $2.30. Every time a person exits the sanitary environment, they will need a complete new set of these items. That includes taking bathroom breaks and lunch. An average employee will go through a minimum of 4 sets per day.

352 hand-trimmers
x $2.30 (outfit)
x 4 (new outfits per day)
x 250 (workdays per year)
____________________________________________________
= $809,600 PER YEAR
in safety/sanitary clothing.

Additional concerns and costs:

• SECURITY:

The additional employees required for hand-trimming would also constitute a much larger security risk.

• CONTAMINATION:

Every additional employee is an additional potential contamination point for the product.

• HUMAN RESOURCES:

Hand-trimming is a low-wage, high turnover position. To keep the necessary staff numbers up you would need a minimum of 20 additional HR managers for the daily hiring, firing, and activity associated with managing the workforce of 352 hand trimmers.

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At Aurora Sky, our most conservative cost analysis would put the cost of hand trimming at well over $20,000,000 per year. When accounting for the costs of the harder-to-calculate points like space, infrastructure, security, and human resources, we estimate the true cost would be over $25,000,000 per year.

Even though we manufacture the world’s best automated trimmer, our position is that there will always be a place for hand-trimming in smaller-scale, craft-grow operations. That’s not what the Mobius Trimmer M108 was designed for. It was created for large-scale, commercial facilities like Aurora Sky, where hand-trimming is not a tenable option.

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