The image of manufacturing

Posted on 26 Nov 2011 by Tim Brown

It is said that a picture paints a thousand words and that first impressions count. Yet in the hustle and bustle of daily industry life, most manufacturers focus maintenance efforts on keeping a site functional but pay little more than lip service to the maintenance required to keep a site attractive.

While admittedly there are numerous examples of impressive industrial workspaces throughout the UK, only a handful of manufacturing sites have gone the extra mile to interweave innovation, efficiency, cleanliness and appearance in such a way as to be truly impressive.

The McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, is certainly one of those plants. Last week saw the official opening of the new £50m McLaren Production Centre for the MP4-12C supercar. Situated adjacent to the pre-existing Formula-1 facility, the new plant is clinically clean and is set against the backdrop of one of the most iconic motorsport facilities in the world. When manufacturers remark that engineering and manufacturing is no longer the dirty smoke stack laden industry it once was, the McLaren facility is testament to that comment.

But, when it comes to many other manufacturing facilities across the UK, aesthetics is certainly an afterthought. To the outside observer, I’m sure some sites don’t appear that far removed from the era of the chimney sweep. Changing the perception of manufacturing to increase interest from the future potential engineers surely has to include changing the visual image of the workspace.

While many companies are not in the financial position of McLaren, improvements need not cost the earth; a simple splash of paint and a minimal amount of landscaping can do wonders. Of course it is not simply about image. Visual management can impact on, amongst other things, profit, work ethic, efficiency, branding and waste reduction. A clean, tidy and pleasant work environment can help improve all those aspects and I challenge anyone to find me a company with a strong focus on site upkeep and organisation that is not only attracting talent but also excelling in the marketplace.

Site appearance is probably not the first priority for most companies but perhaps it should have a higher importance placed up on it. If the manufacturing industry really wants to change its image and attract a greater level of interest, it might be time to get out the ladder and paintbrush.