3 ways to combat the UK’s productivity puzzle

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Barry Crackett is Product Designer from Brushtec, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of industrial brushware. Here, he gives his expert advice on how to overcome the UK’s manufacturing productivity puzzle.

After the financial crash in 2008, the UK’s manufacturing industry has seen a slump in its growth. Since then, it’s struggled to get back on its feet and UK manufacturers have been trying to solve the issue of what’s been coined ‘the productivity puzzle’ ever since.

During the first quarter of this year, the future was looking bright, as the UK manufacturing industry saw a 2.2% increase in output (Office for National Statistics). But, unfortunately, that growth was short lived, and productivity has since dropped to the lowest it’s ever been in almost seven years, according to a press release from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. So, what can we do to revive it?

From attracting new talent to cleaning your premises, I’ll be going through some of the changes you can make to your processes to help boost productivity and solve the UK’s manufacturing productivity puzzle.

Support new talent

One of the largest problems UK-based manufacturers are currently facing is the ability to recruit and maintain a highly skilled workforce. This is largely due to the global skills gap and an aging population, with fewer young people opting to take up roles in the manufacturing industry. And, with a small workforce, productivity is going to be low. So, we need do to more to encourage new recruits into the sector.

There are various ways to do this but, ultimately, we need to promote diversity in the industry by encouraging more women and young people to enter the sector. This can include a focus on apprenticeship schemes and vocational education to nurture and build skills in young people coming out of school. But it can also be as simple as visiting schools and colleges as a guest speaker and making sure that your workplace culture is supportive of a diverse workforce.

Invest in new technologies

The future of manufacturing is looking bright largely due to the emergence of new technologies which can boost productivity and streamline your processes. Investing in automation can also help to solve the dip in your workforce. This is because some roles that you’re struggling to fill could actually be done entirely by a computer, and it can free up time for workers to focus on other, more important jobs. So, you’ll need to review your current manufacturing process to identify areas that could be fully automated. 

Supply Chain 4.0 is the next generation of progress within the manufacturing industry. It uses automated computers and algorithms to carry out admin roles and keep track of machinery and equipment on the factory floor. This makes it easier for you to analyse output and efficiency quickly, as well as transfer information across sectors instantly. You’ll also be able to measure the performance of your machinery before it fails, which means you can get in there and fix it before it has a chance to cause significant impact to your productivity. 

Maintain premises and equipment

On a factory level, taking the time to improve and maintain your premises can do a lot towards boosting productivity. Cleaning your factory and machinery regularly will ensure that trapped dirt and debris isn’t hindering your manufacturing process. It’ll also boost employee morale and your staff will be more likely to work hard if they know you’re taking steps to improve their working environment.

So, you should come up with a regular cleaning plan to keep on top of your factory maintenance. Ideally, your premises should be cleaned daily with a broom and mop to get rid of any dust and debris from the day’s work. Then, you should schedule a regular deep clean around once a month using more specialised equipment like disk brushes and conveyor cleaning brushes. To increase your factory efficiency even further, you can even get specialist brush attachments that are designed to be used with your usual forklift, without the need for any extra machinery. 

The future of the UK’s manufacturing productivity puzzle may take some time to solve. But, by following the tips in this guide, the future of the industry looks a little bit brighter.