Selection of the regional winners forced the judges into a number of fine choices.
Manufacturing is gradually becoming more evenly distributed across the face of Britain, as the emergence of new industries in once rural locations slowly makes up for the long relative decline of the traditional heartlands. A dozen years ago, in 1981, factories in the South East were responsible for just under 28% of UK manufacturing output. By last year their contribution had shrunk to less than a quarter. Scotland's share fell half as fast over the period, to a little over 8% of the total. The North West also declined slightly. Regions less commonly associated with manufacturing which saw their proportions increase included East Anglia and the East Midlands, which were the pincipal winners.
What the statistics do not reveal is how well all these factories are performing. Which factories can be held up as leaders, and as examples to others in their regions, and just how good are they? With factories from all over the UK entering for Best Factory awards, one way to find out might be to pit them against each other on a regional basis - as well as by industrial sector. Which is what Management Today and Cranfield School of Management decided to do.
In fact the search for winners was more difficult than the judges had foreseen. Each factory had to perform to a standard of excellence sufficient to earn a place on an industry category short list. The regional dimension meant that the cake would then have to be sliced differently, and a Process Industry factory, say, compared to an Engineering Industry factory. It didn't turn out quite as anticipated because of the way in which the entrant factories were distributed among industries and regions.
The Midlands was fairly straightforward. Premier Exhaust's selection as Factory of the Year clinched that decision. But what about Wales, with the Best Process Industry factory (Kimberly-Clark) and Allevard Springs, an excellent engineering factory that had been pipped at the post in its industry sector? Could a winner in one industry be beaten by a non-winner in another? Yes it could, decided the judges.
Thus some of the regional winners are winners of industry sector awards: Premier in the Midlands, Thorn Lighting in the North East, GPT in the North West. Others are not: Moy Park in Northern Ireland, Alcan Rolled Products in Scotland, Allevard Springs in Wales. No overall winner emerged in two regions, the South East and South West. However, Plysu Containers and Vencel Resil are both Commended.
REGIONAL AWARDS 1993
The Midlands: Commission for the New Towns Award
Best Factory: Premier Exhaust Systems Ltd, Coventry
North West: Co-operative Bank Award
Best Factory: GPT Ltd, Liverpool
North East: Northern Electric Award
Best Factory: Thorn Lighting Ltd, Spennymoor
Wales: Development Board for Rural Wales Award
Best Factory: Allevard Springs, Clydach Vale, Mid-Glamorgan
Northern Ireland: Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland Award
Best Factory: Moy Park Ltd, Coolhill, Tyrone
Scotland: The Ask Group LTD Award
Best Factory: Alcan Rolled Products UK, Glasgow
London and South East: Peritas Ltd Award
Commended: Plysu Containers Ltd, Milton Keynes
South West: Jersey European Airways Ltd Award
Commended: Vencel Resil Ltd, Lydney, Glos.