Research released today (14 March) shows productivity is on the rise in UK manufacturing plants.

A joint study by Cranfield School of Management and lean business experts Turner & Townsend Suiko found increased productivity across a wide range of factory performance measures, with the most significant improvement in average quoted customer lead times, which have reduced by 40% year-on-year. Notable improvements were also evident in procurement lead times and equipment set-up times.

Manufacturing output per employee has risen by seven per cent, while manufacturing added-value per employee – an important measure of competitiveness – has increased by more than 17%. Encouraging figures also included a 10.5% reduction in time-to-market for new products. The average plant reported a 17-month lead time for new product entry to market.

The research is published in a whitepaper entitled ‘A Study of Performance Improvement within UK Manufacturing Plants’, which looks at the current health of performance improvement culture and practice within a sample of UK manufacturing businesses.

Performance data from 41 UK factories from the engineering and electronics sector was analysed to examine the performance changes over a one-year period (data covered 2011 to 2016). Researchers gathered data across a range of primary operational performance measures, including output per employee, added-value per employee, lead times, delivery reliability, stock-turns, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), absenteeism and employee engagement.

They found increased factory productivity across the majority of measures studied, with notable improvements in quality, delivery performance, schedule adherence, lead times and employee engagement.

Marek Szwejczewski, Professor of Operations Strategy at Cranfield School of Management, said: “The UK has battled hard over the past 20 years, alongside many global manufacturing sectors, with a decline in productivity. Our research supports other recent UK reports which have tracked manufacturing’s upward curve. We have seen factories benefiting from an upswing in global economic growth, backed by a strong demand for British goods among foreign buyers. Equally, their commitment to sustained continuous improvement practice has clearly paid dividends and is, without doubt, a significant part of their respective success stories.”

Martin Barrett, Director of Manufacturing at Turner & Townsend Suiko, said: “The adoption of lean manufacturing practice is a critical success factor in determining true customer value throughout the supply chain. While there is still much work to do to keep UK manufacturing on an upward trajectory, it is hugely encouraging to see the major percentage improvements are related to greater customer responsiveness, with improved efficiencies in delivery and quality of service. A robust commitment to operational excellence through enhanced performance and improved productivity ensures UK manufacturing will continue to thrive despite global challenges.”

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