The procedure for entering the 1996 Management Today Best Factory Awards - organised in association with the School of Management at Cranfield University - starts here. Get the appropriate entry form now.
Entries are invited for the Management Today Best Factory Awards 1996 which will be organised - as in each of the preceding four years - in association with the School of Management at Cranfield University.The aim of the Best Factory Awards, which are without parallel in the UK, is to encourage the spread of manufacturing excellence throughout British industry by conferring recognition on those plants - their personnel and management - which have already made substantial progress towards the achievement of world class manufacturing standards.
The rules governing this year's competition are unchanged from those of previous years. Entry is open - free of charge - to any manufacturing plant in the UK, regardless of industry, ownership, size or manufacturing technology: a 'plant' being defined as a self-contained business unit making tangible products in its own facilities, with its own dedicated workforce and management. It is recognised that two or more plants may occupy a single site, and therefore that certain facilities may need to be shared.
The timetable this year is similar to that of the earlier competitions. Plant managements wishing to enter for the Awards should now be carrying out - or 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-ordinator at Cranfield (see box). The audit form is a 14-page document containing around 130 questions designed to reveal a plant's performance under such headings as inventory control, machine changeover times, labour productivity and delivery reliability. To be considered for an award, management will need to return the completed document to Cranfield by 15 April 1996.
It is stressed that the audit form is entirely confidential. On receipt by Cranfield, each form is given a code number which conceals the identity of the sender. Confidentiality is preserved even from judges at this stage of the selection process. Names will be released only if management wishes to proceed to the later stages, and then only with the consent of the company concerned. However, every plant submitting a form will receive a 37-page audit report giving a full benchmarking analysis of its own performance compared to the average of its (anonymous) peers. Managements which participate thus far in successive years are therefore provided with an objective assessment of their progress year-on-year. Many award winners maintain that this free benchmarking service is the principal reason why they have entered the competition.
On the basis of their audit forms, entrants are assigned to one of four industrial categories: engineering, electrical and electronics, household and general products or process industry; there is a fifth category - small company - which is reserved for independent factories employing some 500 people or fewer, regardless of industry. Those which show up well in the benchmarking exercise are invited to move on 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 has to be disclosed - with permission, and initially only to the judges. From this point, too, an element of personal assessment is unavoidable. The purpose of the visits is to probe aspects of performance which cannot adequately be covered in the self-audit document: such as the morale of the workforce, the priorities of management and the attitude of both towards intangible necessities like continuous improvement. The composition of the judging panel (with representatives from Management Today, Cranfield, the CBI, the DTI and the Institution of Electronics and Electrical Incorporated Engineers) ensures a high degree of objectivity.
Site visits by the judges, which will take place in late summer, will be followed by two months analysis of the findings. The winners in each category, and the 'most improved' factory (among those which have taken part in previous years), will be announced in early November at the Best Factory Awards lunch in London. (In the past two years, the judges exercised their discretion by making a 'special award' for outstanding achievement in a specific area: this innovation, says Professor New, 'could be repeated'.) Last to be named, of course, will be the Factory of the Year 1996.
Last year this prestigious title went to a relatively unknown company in the north east of England, Bonas Machine Co, which in a very few years has grown to dominate its corner of the textile machinery sector world-wide. Which will be this year's Factory of the Year? Equally important, which plants will emerge as leaders in their categories? The field is wide open. All finalists will be extensively featured in the November 1996 issue of Management Today.
TIMETABLE AND PROCEDURE
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 15 April 1996.
Preparation of benchmarking reports.
Benchmarking reports distributed to all participants.
Best Factory Awards lunch in London with announcements of winners in each category.