When Reckitt Benckiser's household factory in Sinfin Lane, Derby won a commendation in the 2001 awards, the judges were impressed with progress in bringing a traditionally organised, low-skill, high-cost site up to high modern standards. 'HQ told us: 'We need you'' - Derby produces aerosols and other liquid products for the whole of Europe - ''but we can't afford you',' recalls Andre Croatto, the now-retired site director.
He'd arrived at Derby on 1 January 2000, the day the Anglo-Dutch merger that formed Reckitt Benckiser took effect.
It soon became apparent that if the two-plant site could not get costs down quickly, a hard-nosed head office would be scrutinising alternatives with beady eyes. However, by 2001, the basics had been completed: fixed costs had been brought under control and overheads slashed by removing management duplication and running the lines more efficiently. But equally important, the foundations had been put in place for longer-term improvements since then.