Magazine article European Business Forum

In My Opinion

Magazine article European Business Forum

In My Opinion

Article excerpt

This comparison of Italian and UK engineering plants comes to the rather surprising conclusion that there is no significant statistical difference where indicators such as quality or lead times are concerned. However, there are significant differences in the field of people management, notably in rates of absenteeism and levels of involvement in problem-solving groups.

In addition to commenting on the scientific findings of the project, I will highlight what I consider to be two particularly interesting aspects of this article and I will conclude with a question.

The first comment is that the study has developed a statistical tool of analysis by using a well-explained IBFA questionnaire (International Best Factory Award programme). This questionnaire was translated into local languages and explained in detail to the managers of the plants undergoing evaluation. By doing so, the authors have sought to make a valid, objective and measurable comparison. For those of us who work in a manufacturing environment and are frequently interested in benchmarking other companies rather than merely analysing the plants in our own group, such an objective tool ought to be helpful and instructive. Subjective measures are too often found when managers embark on benchmarking exercises, creating the risk that the process becomes biased and deviates quickly from its primary purpose of inspiring improvement.

Leaving aside the statistical analysis, my second comment is focused on the important observation in the article that at the end of the day it is the management of people that makes the biggest difference. In the past I have worked in a production environment in Ireland and enjoyed the privilege of running a factory in Belgium for several years; today I manage a plant in the eastern part of the Czech Republic. …

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