One of the surest ways of qualifying as a world class manufacturer - and as a British Best Factory - is to operate in a really tough market: factories that supply demanding customers in the motor industry or among the supermarket chains constitute a disproportionate number of 1993 award winners. Other secrets of world class factories: they foster co-operation - and finish what they begin.
Manufacturing matters in Britain. Moreover, these days there is some good news around to support that contention. Exports of manufactured goods increased by 70% to £97 billion during the decade 1982-1992. The trade deficit in manufactures, which one year earlier had reached a peak of £25 billion, had by 1992 fallen back to £14 billion. Even today nine million people either work in manufacturing or depend on it for their jobs. Value added in manufacturing industry exceeds £100 billion a year, which is equivalent to public spending on education, health and social services combined. Certainly, manufacturers themselves are in no doubt that they have a future: investment in capital equipment, vehicles and buildings amounted to £14 billion in 1992, while investment in people - principally in their training - cost substantially more, at over £20 billion.