Boost productivity, strengthen your product development pipeline and get a firm grip on continuous improvement in six months. Read more Read less

The Manufacturing Leadership Programme for SMEs is a breakthrough course for manufacturing practitioners, by manufacturing practitioners. It is a hands-on practical programme to help you solve a real problem in your business. 

Whatever your challenge, the Manufacturing Leadership Programme for SMEs is designed to improve your leadership capabilities, boost productivity, enable continuous improvement and growth, enhance technology leadership and strengthen your product development pipeline through innovation and much more.

Seminars on key topics to future proof manufacturing leaders

  • Manufacturing Business Uncertainty
  • Cyber-Secure Manufacturing
  • Manufacturing Business Model Innovation
  • Sustainable Manufacturing.

At a glance

Course structure

The assessments and modules will take place at Cranfield University. This is important because it takes you out of your work place and into our clear, tranquil place of learning where you can work ON your business with peers and experts and not IN it. The course is structured as six periods of attendance over a six month period. There are four two-day modules and accommodation is available on campus. You will be required to bring your own laptop/tablet with wireless capability. There will be a mix of lectures and group activities based on your own business issues. Through our portal you will join the conversation online and be able to download supporting materials.

What you will learn

By the end of this programme we expect you to achieve payback within 12 months and to develop powerfully effective leadership skills for implementing productivity and performance improvements for years to come.

This is a hands-on programme drawing on the experience and expertise of the Cranfield course leaders, industry peers (your class) and your own expertise to help you implement operational expertise in your business.Work on any initiative that delivers the greatest return on your operations. This can be anything from moving a factory or implementing automation, through to creating a manufacturing strategy.

Core content

The course is structured as six periods of attendance at Cranfield University over a six month period. This allows delegates to carry out further work and learning between modules and make use of this learning in the work environment. The focus of the course for each delegate is implementation of a specific improvement initiative for their own business. 

Discovery (one day) 

By the end of this initial assessment you will have identified your strengths and weaknesses when leading change to deliver competitive advantage:  

  • You will provide an overview of your business, its perceived competencies, its competitive position, the threats it faces and the main challenges faced in the next 12 months
  • Gain an understanding of your leadership capabilities through participation in specialist group activities and psychometric tests. Cranfield experts will then help to shape your leadership destiny by talking through your results. Your industry peers (your cohort) will also join in with feedback.

Module 1 (two days): The Manufacturing Audit: Discovering your handbrakes to growth

By the end of the audit you will:

  • Gain a full understanding of the immediate and longer-term threats to your business
  • Systematically identify areas of good-practice/best-practice in areas ripe for improvement
  • Discover new levels of performance that could be achieved when you develop and implement an effective performance improvement action plan.
Module 2 (two days): Developing your manufacturing leadership skills

Develop and strengthen leadership skills you need to lead systemic and cultural change. Each time you implement a change initiative, your leadership skills are put to the test.

Learn to:
  • Understand the specific issues and limitations associated with leading change in your manufacturing operation
  • Maintain quality and delivery performance to your customers whilst managing change
  • Manage financial performance during the transition period. 

By the end of this module you will have an awareness of the leadership skills you need to lead any type of change initiative and how those leadership skills can be developed further.

Module 3 (two days): Identifying key areas of your manufacturing strategy

By the end of this module you will have identified the specific areas for change in your business and mapped out appropriate interventions to deliver the change that leads to competitive advantage in the business, productivity improvement and enhance technology leadership: 

  • Identify areas for change
  • Design strategies that are likely to deliver the desired performance improvement that you seek, in line with your business resources
  • Map the impact and difficulty of implementing your strategies into your business that will deliver competitive advantage in the areas that you have identified.

Module 4 (two days): The action plan, making it happen, getting things done

Convert your strategy from Module 3, into an action plan: 

  • Design a detailed action plan
  • This is your roadmap to successfully leading change and ultimately competitive advantage
  • By the end of this module you will own a detailed implementation plan with a defined set of actions, tasks required to deliver the actions and resources required to complete the tasks. 
Your plan will include a clear link between each task and your strategic objective, appropriate review and control mechanisms and a realistic timescale for implementation.

Option coaching from some of the leading thinkers in UK Manufacturing (three half-day sessions): 

During this six-month programme of performance improvement, you will be allocated a Manufacturing Leadership and Strategy Coach, and receive three half-day coaching sessions. The coach will help you to manage your learning, develop your skills, improve your performance, and become a leader who delivers performance improvement to your business. 

For an additional fee, this optional coaching is available during and post-module, to support you with leading a successful implementation. 

Test your action plan - Final Assessment (one day)

Test your action plan with a De-facto Non-Executive Directors Board:

Sense check your action plan with your industry peers (cohort) and Cranfield’s course leaders. They will be your sounding board who provides rigorous assessment of your plan, just like a board of non-executive directors This process will strengthen your action plan giving you the confidence to implement it. 

You will present your plan and receive feedback. Vice versa, you will take the role of a consultant by contributing your knowledge and expertise to your cohorts action plan. It is a valuable learning exercise in itself.

Who should attend

This programme is for Senior Managers, Directors and owners of UK SME Manufacturing businesses as well as Managers who are leading strategic improvements within their business. The programme is suitable for all SME Manufacturing operations from high volume to bespoke production.


The MTA exists to promote the interests of the manufacturing technologies sector in the UK.

MTA members design, create and supply the advanced machinery, equipment and intellectual property that enable the creation of the products we rely on from day to day and that drive our economy.

Established in 1919, the MTA has been at the core of the UK’s engineering based manufacturing economy for almost a century.

Key aspects of manufacturing technology include machine tools, cutting tools, metrology (measuring) equipment, additive manufacturing (3D printing), surface finishing, robotics and computer aided design and manufacturing products (CAD/CAM) which combine to make up complete systems - increasingly automated and adaptive - that manufacturers deploy, making the sector fundamental to the nation’s economy.

The MTA delivers marketing support and networking opportunities; specific and relevant economic and technical information; representation to Government and other stakeholders; help for exporters; and support for learning and development within member companies and beyond.

The MTA also organises and delivers MACH – the UK’s largest industrial exhibition.


Dr Patrick McLaughlin 

Dr Patrick McLaughlin is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of both the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. He has an MSc in Industrial Engineering & Production Management and a Doctorate in Business Administration; both from Cranfield University. Prior to joining Cranfield he worked at director level for over 20 years in a number of manufacturing businesses, implementing operations excellence. 

Richard Maun 

Richard Maun has Recognised Teacher status at Cranfield University and works with post¬≠graduates and senior leaders to develop their communication and leadership skills. He is also a highly experienced business coach and combines Lean thinking with Transactional Analysis to support leaders through the process of organisational change. His external clients have included the Cabinet Office, the NHS, Schroders Bank, Amdocs PLC and a range of SMEs. 

Alan Robertson 

Alan Robertson is an organisational development consultant and business psychologist, who has been a visiting teaching fellow at Cranfield for over 20 years. He consults across a broad spectrum of sectors, with a particular interest in manufacturing, and his work focuses on practical ways of helping people to extract more learning from their own habits and past experiences and from understanding their differences with each other.


MTA are entitled to apply for a £2,000 discount (subject to terms and conditions)

Location and travel

Cranfield University is situated in Bedfordshire close to the border with Buckinghamshire. The University is located almost midway between the towns of Bedford and Milton Keynes and is conveniently situated between junctions 13 and 14 of the M1.

London Luton, Stansted and Heathrow airports are 30, 90 and 90 minutes respectively by car, offering superb connections to and from just about anywhere in the world. 

For further location and travel details

Location address

Cranfield University
College Road
MK43 0AL

How to apply

To apply for this course please use the online application form.

Read our Professional development (CPD) booking conditions.