How do SMEs measure up

Investment in best practice is no longer the sole concern of large manufacturing operations – small companies must also realise the benefits are a pre-requisite for sustainable growth.’

This is a claim made by the report, Made in Europe 3 – the Small Company Study. In a major field study 297 small and medium sized manufacturing companies primarily in the UK, Italy and Northern Europe, were individually visited and assessed by expert practitioners. While the findings from earlier Made in Europe reports are widely accepted ie that the adoption of best practices will achieve superior performance in large manufacturing enterprises, the current study looks for the first time, at best practice in enterprises employing less than 200 employees.

Key findings for small companies were: small company practices are customer orientated, response focused and concerned with new products; competitive edge typically comes from speed, responsiveness and closeness to customers; SMEs exhibit a greater level of confidence than larger companies in their ability to make change; within the SME sector there are sharp differences between micro (5-20 employees) small (21-50) and medium (51-200) sized companies. The biggest jump is from micro to small; SMEs which are subsidiaries of larger companies have significantly higher levels of best practice; while Italian companies have clear strengths in design, flexibility and customer intimacy, UK SMEs have greater reliability and financial performance; managers of independent small companies need networking opportunities from which to draw knowledge of best practices.