Manufacturing matters

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 1 October 2004



(2004), "Manufacturing matters", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 53 No. 7.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Manufacturing matters

Many readers might be surprised to learn that manufacturing still creates one-fifth of UK national output. In so doing, it employs four million people and produces the majority of our exports. The productivity of manufacturing is thus important. To help raise productivity levels in this important sector, the Government set up the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

The Government believes it is important for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), in particular, to have access to affordable and practical advice. Manufacturers need to be persuaded that it is counter-productive to make do with old plant, uninspiring technology and inadequate working practices, which is why it set up the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) in April 2002. Recent figures show that, since its launch, the MAS has delivered a total added value of over £39 million to UK firms, which is why it is keen to encourage more and more manufacturers to take advantage of the support and expertise that it offers.

The MAS is not just about improving a company’s productivity, profitability and working practices to increase competitiveness on home soil. In an ever-growing global economy, British manufacturers need to adopt innovative production techniques in order to compete with companies across the world. UK manufacturing productivity generally lags behind major competitors such as Germany, France and the USA, and access to expert assistance can help close this gap. According to Patricia Hewitt MP, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry: “If we could reach the average manufacturing performance of these three countries, and other things remained equal, value added in manufacturing would be more than £70 billion higher.”

The MAS is essentially an initiative for England and Wales and has been developed as a partnership between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the Welsh Development Agency (WDA). MAS is delivered through ten Regional Centres in England and Wales. SMEs can receive information, advice and support from their regional MAS. The core services are:

  • information/signposting;

  • analysis of real needs;

  • short term practical advice;

  • follow on advice;

  • access to training; and

  • access to demo and testing facilities.

The MAS acts as a focal point for the delivery of information and support and works in collaboration with a network of other agencies including the 45 business links, university, higher education and local government establishments, as well as 250 Centres of Expertise in Manufacturing (CEM), which are accessible to companies of all sizes throughout England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland,

The MAS has helped many manufacturing companies throughout England and Wales improve productivity.

For example, Camborne-based Crystal Clear (South West), a manufacturer of double glazed sealed units for windows and conservatory roofs has achieved a 200 per cent increase in throughput and boosted production capacity by 300 per cent

MAS South West undertook manufacturing and internal reviews, working with Crystal Clear staff to move equipment, lay new flooring, and improve production flow. Relocating two pieces of production equipment increased throughput and productivity, and safety was improved by separating the glass cutting area from the rest of the facilities.

These changes resulted in a 35 per cent increase in productivity, a 35 per cent reduction in movement of people and materials, and a release of 40 per cent in production capacity.

Avon Rubber manufactures and supplies rubber as a raw material throughout Europe from its plant in Wiltshire. The company was keen to prevent stoppages in the main mixing facility that were caused by the wait for small chemicals. Avon Rubber also wanted to explore the potential to increase output without increasing labour, and deliver tools and techniques to shop-floor staff in order to kick start the continuing improvement initiative.

In order to address these manufacturing concerns, MAS delivered a one day process improvement workshop training session which identified waste activities and time, and determined “value added” and “non value added” activities.

Five key improvements were quantified by the MAS, which reduced non-value added time, and increased productivity by 25 per cent:

  • Improve planning of facility to eliminate over-production.

  • Eliminate delay in prompt screen where operator waits for next step.

  • Reorganise material storage shelves to reduce material deliver time and movements.

  • Implement storage location system to reduce operator time spent looking for materials.

  • Reposition workstation to reduce operator movements.

To find out more about how the MAS, visit the Web site:

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