The judges for the 1995 Management Today Best Factory Awards are still out on the road. Although there are no regional awards this year,the geographical spread of entries is as great as ever, and the team of experts from Management Today, Cranfield, the DTI, CBI and IEE are currently visiting sites in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and all the regions of England.
The chairman of the judges, Colin New of Cranfield School of Management, believes that the standard of the shortlist will be at least as high as in previous years. Professor New is also impressed by the diversity of industrial sectors represented by the more than 240 entries received this year. He notes, however, that two sectors have been consistently underrepresented over the past four years, namely consumer electronics and food/drink/tobacco.
The composition of the shortlist will be made public in October, and the final winners, across seven categories, will be announced at the Best Factory Awards lunch, to be held at The Savoy, London, on 2 November, 1995.
The aim of the awards is not simply to recognise excellence in manufacturing, it is also to disseminate best practice. To this end, The Best Factory Conference has now been established as an annual event. This year the conference will be held at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, on 27 and 28 September.
The Best Factory Conference has two special qualities: first, almost all speakers come from plants which were either winners or highly commended in the 1994 Best Factory Awards; second, each speaker will concentrate on the individual areas in which - in the eyes of the judges - his plant achieved excellence. The organisers' intention is to provide delegates with real insight into best factory practice, and the highly focused contributions from speakers with valuable stories to tell will give this two-day conference an intensely practical value. In 1994, 95% of the delegates reported that it was one of the best organised events they had attended, and 98% found it 'very valuable'.
This year the conference's organisers aim to improve on those results, and an impressive cast of speakers has been assembled. Jeff Sharrock, general manager of Design to Distribution's Kidsgrove plant (declared Factory of the Year in the 1994 awards), will talk about 'The Supply Chain and Improving Customer Service'; Simon Lebus, divisional managing director of Kitchen Range Foods, will concentrate on 'Product Specification, Process Control and Customer Service'; Bob Alger from Birds Eye Wall's will look at 'New Product Development and Automation'; Walter Carruthers, managing director of European Components Company, will describe his approach to 'Kaizen and High Volume Poka-Yoke Assembly'.
Other subjects to be covered include 'Designing Quality into the Product'; 'Building an Environment for Effective Teamworking in a Continuous Process Operation'; 'Fast Response Prototyping Through to Batch Production'; and 'Committed People Make Things Happen'.
Speakers will take part from Ryobi Aluminium Casting, Glaxo, Whitbread, Exxon and Speedboard, and further contributions will come from KPMG experts on Benchmarking and Flexibility and Responsiveness through Agile Manufacturing. The conference will be chaired by Professor Colin New, who will also give his views on Manufacturing Standards for the 21st Century.
Professor New writes: 'What really matters is whether a company has the ambition to become a world-class manufacturing unit as we approach the 21st century.
I want more of Britain's manufacturing companies to realise how important and far-reaching the changes over the next few years will be. This conference should help to set ever more companies on the road to excellence.' For further details about the Best Factory Conference, to be held at the National Motorcycle Museum on Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28 September 1995, write to Sharon Reeve, senior events manager, Haymarket Events, 22 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3LY, or telephone 0171-413 4161, or fax to 0171-413 4331.