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What We Learned About Productivity at Productivity: Shape Up To Scale Up

On 2 February the Sustainable Scale Up Cluster welcomed Lesley Griffiths MS to officially open its second annual conference at the impressive AMRC Cymru (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre) facility in Broughton, Flintshire where productivity was the theme for the day.

Speakers on the agenda ranged from Santander’s Chief Economist through to innovation specialist Tom Abbott from Marks and Spencer, with a variety of productivity specialists and food and drink businesses in between.

Productivity was defined by Frances Haque, Santander’s Chief Economist, as being a measure of the output by individuals. Essentially, the more output per person, the more productive your business is. However, it was a bit more complicated than that and Frances went on to make the comparisons between countries and reflected the differences between industries. My takeout was that food manufacturing ranges from highly efficient mainstream products to perhaps less efficient, artisanal producers who have to recover their lower productivity rates through premium channels.

Our panellists discussed the issues of reducing input costs, increasing outputs and measuring the production process in a way that helped improve that process.

The conclusion was better measurement, better stock management and, of course, better utilisation to free-up capacity so that the overhead costs can be absorbed over greater volumes. As a couple of the panellists pointed out, simplicity of both thinking and processes was the secret.

Radnor Hills Managing Director, William Watkins, brought these issues to life and highlighted the everyday dilemmas of product lines, packaging, the imposition of new regulations as well as seeking new markets to increase volumes. He highlighted the company’s close relationship with their automation partner for helping them invest in new technology.

Tom Abbott from M&S highlighted the tension between the demands from the Operations teams who strive for smooth production runs versus the need for innovation and new product development and the disruptions that these inevitably bring.

Paying for productivity improvements was a key topic of discussion. The views of banks and financiers were, in short, forecasting, forecast, and forecast again – use scenario planning to show best, worst and likely cases. They look for business cases to show that efficiency improvements can come through increased capacity or that savings are achieved through efficient use of inputs such as energy, automated tasks and better use of equipment.

Finally, our hosts AMRC, demonstrated some great examples of where process mapping through to defect identification could be done at a fraction of the cost people might have otherwise imagined. AI for product quality control under £500, a bargain that also frees-up people.

Over 100 attendees went away inspired to revisit their own productivity and the way that they measure it. Afterall, as the Minister reminded delegates at the start of the conference, “what gets measured gets managed!”.

If you would like to talk to one of our Cluster Managers about productivity in your business, get in touch HERE.

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