Christopher Simpson, chairman of the Institute for Mechanical Engineering’s Manufacturing Excellence Awards, talks about recent work to reinvent the popular business benchmarking scheme to make it more accessible to SMEs.
About the MX Awards
The Manufacturing Excellence (MX) Awards was launched by the IMechE in 1982 to support and incentivise improvement in UK-based manufacturing firms.
The awards programme measures maturity, efficiency and effectiveness in a business’s operations. It focuses on:
- Product and process innovation
- Financial management
- The interface between business and education
The awards programme is run by the IMechE’s MX Executive, but taps into the expertise of the institution’s network of over 1,4000 professional engineers to ensure the judging criteria and auditing processes for the awards remain thorough and relevant to the business environment.
To find out more about the awards scheme and recent changes go to: www.imeche.org/event/manufacturing-excellence-awards
TM: What’s changing and why?
CS: The MX Awards were originally designed to be a business benchmarking service. The idea was to support manufacturers in their efforts to improve efficiency and competitiveness.
Over the years however, we found that we had drifted towards a heavy emphasis on the ‘excellence’ aspect and less on the improvement.
We had a strong pedigree of blue chip and confident mid-sized manufacturers entering year on year, but we became aware that our interface with smaller firms was not what it should be.
To revitalise our core purpose of business bench marking, we’ve redesigned the process by which all companies enter the awards in order to make the scheme more accessible to SMEs. We are lowering the barriers to entry while retaining the rigour which makes the scheme a valuable exercise for any firm which wants to assess how competitively it is operating compared to other industrial enterprises.
TM: How will the new entry process work?
CS: We’ve spent the last year developing software that will support online submissions to the awards scheme.
Professor Mike Gregory at the Institute for Manufacturing has worked closely with us to help refine the software which works on a multiple choice basis. The online portal for submissions will be open all year round at any time of day.
We’re also breaking the national scheme down into regional competitions. The regional schemes for the West Midlands and Yorkshire and the North East have launched already and by 2014 we will have seven regional awards schemes in operation.
We anticipate that the regional offering will be particularly popular with SMEs since it is less challenging and time consuming than the national scheme. It takes around seven hours to complete the regional submission whereas it takes around 14 hours to complete a submission for the national scheme.
TM: Aren’t you concerned that businesses will lose confidence in a benchmarking scheme based on a multiple choice form?
CS: I know that many will be sceptical. But software we have developed is very clever.
Firms won’t just be able to tick boxes saying they are excellent at everything. The software will demand evidence and we conducted pilot projects with eighteen manufacturers to ensure the software is effective.
In any case, it would be self-defeating for a company to take part in a benchmarking scheme and not be completely honest in their submission.
TM: What happens once the online submission is complete?
CS: An automatic benchmarking report is generated based on more than 12 years’ worth of data which we have gathered via the MX Awards.
This benchmarking report is based on data from across all industrial sub-sectors but one it has been generated a company can invite our inspectors to perform an onsite audit leading to a sector focused report.
A submission will also immediately enter a company into the regional or national MX Awards programme, opening up the opportunity to be recognised by the professional engineering community represented in IMechE.