Britain’s manufacturers are to be urged to go off site and spend time cajoling their suppliers to get their operations up to scratch in an ambitious government-backed campaign to boost productivity.
The concept has already been used in the UK car industry, through its SMMT Industry Forum. Funded with £6m from the DTI, it has led to significant productivity improvements within automotive suppliers. It will be rolled out to ten other sectors over the next year, at a cost of a further £15m.
The move is part of a joint project run by the Confederation of British Industry and the DTI, called Fit for the Future, which aims to get 50,000 firms a year to benchmark the way they operate against so-called `world class’ companies. Changes to work practices, and possibly investment decisions, are expected to result.
Trade associations and business support agencies will also be expected to lead the drive to get companies to review their operating methods and standards.
`We’re not handing out money. It’s a campaign to show what the benefits are,’ said one DTI official. `One of the biggest problems is complacency. So many companies think it is not their problem, until a firm from Korea, or Germany, or the US swipes 25% of their market overnight.’
The idea was first raised two years ago when the CBI announced that if UK productivity could be raised to the same standard as the average US company, British GDP would expand by £60bn from the manufacturing sector alone.
Since then work has gone on behind the scenes to secure partnership agreements to roll out the project, before the official launch in January this year. The project is expected to run for at least five years.
* Point of View, p10