Steve Baker, head of Manufacturing at S A Partners explains why we decided to get involved with the Best Factory Awards this year.
Q Why have you decided to sponsor the 2013 Best Factory Awards?
S A Partners is passionate about manufacturing. Supporting the Best Factory Awards (as sponsor of the Most Improved Plant category) helps to promote best practice in many ways and therefore drives improvement throughout this critically important sector.
It gives us the ability to share that best practice and showcase material that is current and thought-provoking, among a wide audience. Also, there are follow-on opportunities for attendees to ‘go, look, understand’ these high-performing award winners for themselves, hence providing the chance for further key learning.
Q How would Britain’s best factories fare in a worldwide Top Factory competition?
Britain’s best factories would fare very well, particularly in respect of innovation and creativity where they generally have a strong desire to continually bring new products to the market, quickly. Our best factories have a strong culture around adopting change and continuous Improvement.
Britain’s manufacturers have to truly understand the values of their customers and markets, and respond with ever shorter lead times, in order to deliver these products into the arms of their clients.
Q What’s the key challenge for UK manufacturers in the next 12 months?
One of the key challenges for UK manufacturers is their ability to identify future trends and changes that will be required in their products and services. To beat the competition to the market, manufacturers need to use this information to drive innovation and development, coupled to more responsive lead times. This in itself is not enough, though. They must also be able to think and plan more than one year out, working extremely closely with their customers to understand, through gaining insight, what will truly add value to their business both now and in the future.
Q What should manufacturers know about SA Partners?
S A Partners is a global provider of lean consulting and training, helping organisations to achieve operational excellence. Our development and training programmes are accredited by Cardiff University against the Lean Competency System (LCS). This enables us to assess and certify those candidates who can demonstrate achievement of the relevant criteria. What differentiates us is our Lean Business Model, the culmination of many years of application experience and research in the field. Working together with our clients is fundamental to the relationships we hold. We believe in the power of shared learning and improvements. The benefits of working in this way are that improvements are sustainable in the long term. We have over 20 years’ experience of working with manufacturers in the UK, where evidence of such improvements can be clearly seen within their operations.
Q What’s your favourite UK-manufactured product and why?
It’s very difficult to limit this to one product, so I would have to overstep the mark and offer up two here! My first would be Rolls-Royce aircraft engines, manufactured and assembled at Derby. Why? Because this is based on a British invention (Sir Frank Whittle); is an iconic British name; and it’s synonymous with quality and reliability.
And then there is the Land Rover Defender, manufactured and assembled in the UK. Another iconic British name, evolved from a British design that started in 1947 and still competes strongly within the global market. This product aligns well to its target market, offering a durable, rugged and reliable solution, coupled with a fantastic range of configurations.
Q What do you wish was made in GB?
I would have to say Apple products. From the revolutionary production of the first iPod, Apple created a fantastic, stable platform on which to build the rest of the iPod range, and then on to the iPhone and subsequently the iPad. It continued to build upon its quality and innovation; the products remain user-friendly, and have sustained their visibility and accessibility to consumers. Apple provides excellent customer support and keeps moving with the times to create products that provoke a strong desire among its customers for the next model or upgrade.
In the same way, British manufacturers need to embrace our home-grown innovators and innovations, and drive towards products and services that are packed full of customer value – not once, but time and time again.