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Could East Anglia lead the way in the race for productivity improvement?

PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:39 14 August 2018

Staff at Vanilla Electronics. The company is among those being showcased at the Journey to Productivity conference taking place at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Dave Guttridge

Staff at Vanilla Electronics. The company is among those being showcased at the Journey to Productivity conference taking place at the University of East Anglia. Picture: Dave Guttridge

Dave Guttridge The Photographic

A centre for cutting-edge businesses to share productivity best practice is set to open in East Anglia.

The region’s first productivity centre aims to provide opportunities for companies to learn how to make their day-to-day operations more productive.

It will be established at Hethel Engineering Centre, with the hope of catching a bow wave of inspiration for productivity improvement from the local engineering and manufacturing community.

READ MORE: Five tips to make your business more productive – according to the experts

Director of Hethel Innovation Simon Coward, who is leading the initiative, said the strength of these as “enabling sectors”, which drive improvement in others, bolstered the argument for starting the first productivity centre in East Anglia – where advanced manufacturing and engineering is the third biggest sector.

He said: “The aim of this centre is to provide a physical space for local engineers and manufacturers to share best practice, collaborate on new projects, learn about emerging technologies from industry experts, and go on personalised training and intervention programmes to create and implement their own productivity strategies.”

Productivity in the UK economy has flatlined since the financial crash of 2007/08. Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests areas outside London and the South East are disadvantaged in the pursuit of productivity growth due to a lack of collaboration and business clusters to attract investment.

Productivity centres have already been established in places like Lancaster and Sheffield to counteract this disadvantage.

Those behind East Anglia’s first productivity centre feel there should be a change in where efforts to improve productivity are focused – from the UK’s “long tail” of low-productivity businesses, usually small local service companies, to exporters, which generally have greater levels of productivity and are often manufacturing or engineering firms.

The centre at Hethel is hoped to be the first in a string of productivity centres to open across the region, which will organise visits to innovative businesses to share best practice, deliver training to help businesses be leaner, more agile and more digitally focused, and provide tailored intervention such as benchmarking and audits.

Mr Coward said: “This is only the beginning of a scheme looking to put Norfolk and the front of the race to solve the productivity challenge.”

Starting your Productivity Journey

In tandem with the Productivity Centre launch, an inaugural productivity conference is being held at the University of East Anglia on September 17.

Speakers will include Vanilla Electronics, which supply electronic and mechanical kits and components to global manufacturers, American software design company Autodesk, Rockwell Automation and the Institute for Manufacturing.

Workshops on productivity challenges will also take place at the day-long event, which is organised by New Anglia Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (NAAME) and UEA.

Before attending delegates will be asked the benchmark their business using an assessment tool developed by Autodesk and NAAME.

It is hoped that the conference will become an annual event.

To register go to www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-productivity-journey-17th-september-2018-tickets-47580993031

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