The Best Factory Conference
27 - 28 February 2007
Chesford Grange, Kenilworth, Nr Warwick, Warwickshire

This years Best Factory conference was a resounding success and revealed that standards in UK manufacturing have moved up a gear in the past year

The Best Factory conference was hailed a success by all attendees and the event highlighted how the best in UK manufacturing are succeeding and what they are doing to build on their Best Factory Award (BFA) achievement.

The conference was attended by around 250 people, including delegates from all sectors of manufacturing, both small companies and global organisations alike. All attendees heard insights from previous winners, and a select bunch of 20 company delegates were provided with a benchmarking report of a sample of their key performance indicators. Presented by BFA judge professor Mike Sweeney, this showed the level of valuable data that the BFA free benchmarking report provides to all entrants.

In addition, a number of industry experts from the BFA sponsor organisations were on hand to help delegates with advice and guidance - Zurich's Tim Astley, for example, gave a presentation on business continuity management, explaining how manufacturers should control the risks in their business.

Strategy, customer relationships and the use of world-class tools and techniques were all covered in presentations. Dr Marek Szwejczewski, director of the BFA for Cranfield, told delegates that he had seen an increase in take-up of certain techniques in the winning companies: "Many consider 5S to be one of the building blocks of success and 5S adoption has grown significantly." Mike Rushworth, operations director of Factory of the Year Vitacress Salads, confessed to being amazed at how certain areas of the Andover site had adopted 5S, including the yard, and engineering department. Glasgow-based The Edrington Group has appeared in Works Management before, when we described its successful flexible working programme. David Donaldson, director of supply chain at the company, told the audience how the business had created a flexible factory and why it entered BFA: "Benchmarking is very important," he stressed, explaining that this forms part of how the company finds out what constitutes best practice.

Two winners from 2005 were invited back. David Fox of Power Panels Electrical Systems joined Cranfield's Mike Sweeney to detail not just a strategy, but a real example of how to add value for customers. And Saint-Gobain's Dr Alan McLenaghan again wowed the audience with his straight talking style. Saint-Gobain has worked hard to exploit its achievement of 2005 Factory of the Year and he told delegates that he is looking forward to entering again: "The benchmarking report is worth its weight in gold," he said. But Saint-Gobain Glass UK will only enter if the shopfloor workers decide it is something they want to do - the process will be driven from there.

Other winning companies were open, frank and informative in their presentations - Genzyme covered health, safety and the environment. Siemens spoke of lean, and AESSEAL of the pursuit of excellence. Sulzer Pumps discussed how to form successful partnerships, Custom Interconnect described how it invested in new technologies, Drinks Dispense Group covered innovation and David Ingham of UPM-Kymmene detailed not only what his site at Shotton has done to be the best process plant, but shared his own personal journey which began by attending the conference in 2005 through to speaking in 2007 as a winner. "I came away in 2005 feeling very humble. Wow, what a standard. Just look what can be done with a UK workforce." Ingham added that this year's winners proved that point further: "The bar has now been raised. And again, I am thinking wow, what a standard!"

Vitacress' Rushworth, along with Rachael Williams, CI manager, closed the conference with an inspiring presentation. "We entered for the opportunity for feedback and benchmarking," said Williams. And now the whole Vitacress team has "a huge sense of pride" she added.

Training has been a key point at Vitacress, and Williams explained that "training spend per employee has been increased six-fold". She admitted that return on this investment isn't always easy to measure, but added "we believe we get ten times that back".

Rushworth summarised: "It felt absolutely fantastic to win, but we know there is much more to do." Even the Factory of the Year knows that continuing to improve is crucial.

And delegate feedback highly recommended the conference and the BFA programme. Kevin Bailey, director of production operations at Coors Brewers said the conference was: "confirmation that we are on the right track." He added that there were "some key learnings" from the speakers, and the conference was ideal for network building.

And Andy Morris, business support manager at SCA Packaging said he could: "use BFA to benchmark and find opportunities to improve, network and visit other plants to share and learn new systems, methods and procedures."

Sponsored by