Entries are once again invited for the Management Today Best Factory Awards, which will be organised, as in the preceding five years, in association with the School of Management at Cranfield University. The aim of these unique awards is to encourage manufacturing excellence throughout British industry by recognising those plants - which have already made substantial head-way towards achieving world-class manufacturing standards.
The competition rules remain the same. Entry is open and free of charge to any manufacturing plant in the UK, regardless of sector, ownership, size or manufacturing technology; here a plant is defined as a self-contained business unit making tangible products in its own facilities. It is recognised that several plants may occupy the same site, and therefore some facilities may be shared.
Plant managements wishing to enter should be preparing to carry out an internal audit of their factory's performance and should waste no time in applying for an audit form from the Best Factory Awards Co-ord-nator at Cranfield (see box). The form is a document containing around 130 questions designed to reveal a plant's performance in areas such as inventory control, machine changeover times and labour productivity. The deadline for the return of the completed document to Cranfield is 16 April 1997.
The form is, of course, confidential. Upon its receipt by Cranfield each entry is given a number to conceal the sender's identity - at this stage not even the judges are privy to this information. Names will be disclosed only if management wishes to proceed further, and then only with the company's consent. Each plant submitting an entry will receive a free - and substantially revamped - 37-page report giving a full benchmarking analysis of its performance compared to the average of its (anonymous) peers. Many award-winners cite this free assessment service as their primary reason for entering in the first place.
On the basis of their forms entrants are assigned to one of four categories: engineering, electrical and electronics, household and general products or process industry. A further category - small company - is reserved for independent factories employing 500 people or less, regardless of sector. Those which shine in the benchmarking exercise are invited to proceed to the next stage which involves a day-long visit to each of the short-listed plants by a panel of judges led by Colin New, professor of manufacturing strategy at Cranfield School of Management.
At this point, of course, the identity of the contestants must be disclosed - with their permission, and initially only to the judges. The visits are intended to probe aspects of performance that no document can divulge: these include workforce morale, management priorities and the overall attitude towards such intangibles as continuous improvement. The composition of the judging panel (with representatives from Management Today, Cranfield, the CBI, the DTI and the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Incorporated Engineers) ensures a high level of objectivity.
The judges' visits take place in late summer and are followed by two months' analysis of the findings. The winners in each category, and the 'most improved' factory (among participating previous entrants) will be announced on 29 October at the Best Factory Awards lunch at London's Savoy Hotel. (In the past three years the judges have also chosen to make a special award for outstanding achievement in a specific area.) The final award, of course, will be Factory of the Year 1997 which last year went to Van den Bergh Foods' outstanding Essex margarine plant.
As in previous years all finalists will receive extensive coverage in the November issue of Management Today. Finally, Management Today wishes to thank Siemens Nixdorf, Computer Associates, International Factors and BSI Quality Assurance, all of which have already pledged their sponsorship.
The Making of Britain's Best Factories, published by Management Today and Business Intelligence, drawing on data collected during the past three years' Awards, is available from Business Intelligence, tel. 0181-544 1830
1997 BEST FACTORY AWARDS' TIMETABLE AND PROCEDURE
January - April 1997
Participating plants carry out a self-audit. Contact the Best Factory Awards Co-ordinator at Cranfield School of Management for an audit form by telephone (01234 751122) or fax (01234 751806). The closing date for return of the audit form is 16 April 1997
Benchmarking analysis of each entrant's performance
August - September 1997
Free benchmarking reports distributed to all participants
The Best Factory Awards lunch at the Savoy Hotel in London with announcements of the winners in each category.