Document 14842175

 Masters of manufacturing
Masters of
aanufacturing always has
been, and always will be, vital
to generating wealth and
national prosperity. The UK is one of the
top 10 manufacturers in the world. The
manufacturing sector accounts for 46% of
UK exports and employs over 2.5 million
people. However, UK manufacturing
has had to change radically to remain
globally competitive. This is evident
when judging the Best Factory Awards
(BFA), which have been run by Cranfield
School of Management, in partnership
with Works Management for the past
20 years, to recognise and reward British
manufacturing excellence. Analysing
the approach taken by the BFA winners
over the years, offers interesting insights
into what companies can do to remain
competitive in the global marketplace.
Successful British manufacturers of late
have adopted a high value add strategy,
as opposed to just competing on price.
Their business model is focused on
providing their customers with greater
value by providing: higher quality; more
technically advanced products that give
better value for money; high levels of
product innovation and customised
Management Focus | Autumn 2012
products that meet individual customer
As the companies have shifted towards
a high value manufacturing approach,
they have moved away from being just
producers of products. The companies
have widened their portfolio to include
services which support their product
offering; they install it, service and repair
it, provide training, and even provide
upgrade facilities. They may also include
more integrated product and service
solutions which cover design, manufacture
and project management.
One of the reasons behind these
companies’ success has been the fact
that they have consistently innovated.
They have not just innovated in terms
of developing new products or making
improvement to existing products, they
have innovated in terms of how they make
them (through process innovation). They
are not innovating just to make a cheaper
product but to improve the product so it
offers more value to their customers. For
example, the product might be designed to
last longer and be more reliable, to ensure
the total cost of ownership is lower.
Dr Marek Szwejczewski
Reader in Operations
“The managers of Britain’s best
factories understand that the
participation and knowledge of
every employee is an important
element in their success.”
When innovating, it is important to stay
close to the customer. By building close
relationships, manufacturers are able to
better understand their customers and
their needs. The best manufacturers do
not guess or speculate about what will
please the customer. Instead, they talk
to their customers, conduct periodic
customer satisfaction surveys and work
closely with them to develop new
products or enhance existing ones.
The shift towards a high value added
approach and a greater focus on
innovation necessitates a more skilled
workforce. The managers of Britain’s
best factories understand that the
participation and knowledge of every
employee is an important element in
their success, and therefore spend
a lot of time and money developing
the skills and knowledge of their
employees through regular training and
lot more from their suppliers, which
may include more frequent deliveries
or help with innovation. However, in
return for support from their suppliers,
manufacturers will help by: sharing
their future plans with them; providing
training for their employees; and also
giving support, if required, for their own
continuous improvement activities.
The most successful manufacturers
have moved away from the traditional
arm’s-length adversarial relationship with
their suppliers to one that is much closer
and collaborative. Factories expect a
The UK manufacturers that are leading
the way, have also become more
concerned about sustainability driven by
consumer concerns, increased legislation
and a rise in energy and disposal costs.
Factories are taking action to minimise
the use of natural resources (materials
and energy) to reduce waste and shrink
their carbon footprint. By reducing
resource costs, especially at a time when
many are rising in price, an impact on
the bottom line is achieved.
A key trait shared by all of the BFA
winners over the years is a focus on
continuous improvement (CI), with CI
activities forming an integral part of the
manufacturing strategy. To be successful,
all employees should be trained in
CI techniques and encouraged to put
forward suggestions for improvement
and get involved in developing the
solutions. To support CI, manufacturers
need a policy of continual investment
in technology and automation, based
on clearly defined visions of their
customers’ requirements. Britain’s
masters of manufacturing are not
standing still - they keep innovating,
improving and growing. MF
For further information please contact the
author at
More details about the Best Factory Awards
are available at
Management Focus | Autumn 2012