For last year's victor in the Management Today Best Factory Awards, it wasn't just the winning that mattered. Just as valuable was Cranfield School of Management's comprehensive benchmarking assessment, which is available free to all entrants.
Premier Exhaust, the overall winner of the Management Today 1993 Best Factory Awards, has no doubt as to what proved the most valuable part of entering last year's competition - participating in the comprehensive benchmarking exercise run by Cranfield School of Management. 'Although it involved quite a bit of work, it provided a stimulus for examining all aspects of our business', says Graham Jackson, general manager of the Coventry-based exhaust manufacturer. 'The findings of the survey also provided us with an indication of the areas in which we needed to improve and, as a result, helped us set our objectives for the current year.' Indeed, the free benchmarking service is open not just to the shortlisted candidates but to entrants in all categories - which in 1993 numbered a record 266, up 41% on the previous year. All received a report from Cranfield that assessed their factory on the basis of a number of factors, positioned it in relation to others in the same sector and, where appropriate, provided an objective view of its year-on-year progress.
This year, the third consecutive year of the event in its revised format, there has been a change to the structure of the national and regional awards. The judges will now have the option to award a special commendation to a plant that was deemed excellent but failed to win its category in the face of superlative competition. Last year, for example, the judges felt that both Dorman Smith Switchgear and Philips PDO Discs were unlucky not to collect an honour.
Apart from this refinement, the rules, timetable and procedure remain largely unchanged; entry is free and open to any manufacturing plant in the UK, a 'plant' being defined as any self-contained unit that has its own personnel, facilities, products and management structure. It is also recognised that more than one plant may occupy a single location and that plants may share certain facilities. At every stage of the selection process, allowance will be made for differences in manufacturing technology.
On the basis of the initial audit, each entrant will be assigned by the judges to the most appropriate of the five industrial categories - engineering, electronics, household products, process and best small company. The last category is open to factories with a workforce of less than 500, from any industry.
At the first stage, all entrants complete a confidential 14-page audit report designed to assess a company in the key areas of lead times, changeover performance, inventory control, labour productivity and delivery reliability. The completed form is then returned to Cranfield, where it is given a code number to conceal the identity of the entrant. Even if the entry is selected as one of the finalists, no identifying details are released unless the company has given prior authorisation.
The best factories identified by the audit reports will be invited to move on to the second stage. The selected plants - assuming that they still wish to participate - will be visited by a panel of judges representing Management Today, Cranfield School of Management and the CBI, and led by Cranfield's Professor Colin New. The panel will spend a day meeting management and workforce on site to make an assessment of the plant's competitive position, paying particular attention to the quality of the senior management team and the degree of employee involvement.
After all shortlisted entrants have been seen, the panel will spend two months distilling the results of the audit reports and the findings of the site visits to arrive at a list of finalists. The winners in each category will be announced in November 1994 at the Best Factory Awards lunch in London. All the finalists will be featured extensively in a special report in that month's issue of Management Today.
To enter, apply for an audit form from the Best Factory Awards Co-ordinator at Cranfield School of Management on 0234 751122 or fax 0234 751806. Forms must be returned no later than 15 April 1994.
Further details can be obtained from William Pecover at Management Today on 071-413 4267 or fax 071-413 4515.
TIMETABLE AND PROCEDURE
Participating plants carry out a self audit.
Contact the Best Factory Awards Co-ordinator at Cranfield School of Management for audit form by telephone (0234 751122) or fax (0234 751806). The closing date for return of the audit form is 15 April 1994
Preparation of benchmarking reports and selection of finalists
Team of assessors makes factory visits to finalists
Benchmarking reports distributed to all participants. Selection of award winners
Best Factory Awards lunch in London with announcement of winners in each category
Best Engineering Industry Factory
Best Electronics Industry Factory
Best Household Products Factory
Best Small Company
Best Process Factory
Most Improved Factory of 1994
Factory of the Year
Best Factory in the South West
Best Factory in London and the South East
Best Factory in the Midlands
Best Factory in Wales
Best Factory in Northern Ireland
Best Factory in the North East
Best Factory in the North West
Best Factory in Scotland.