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The Manufacturer's Agenda: How to Improve Plant Productivity, Profitability, Innovation and Growth

Jan. 17, 2013

Just in time for our annual announcement of the 2012 IndustryWeek Best Plants Award winners, the United States Census Bureau released the findings of its first-ever survey of American management practices. A recent report of the analysis, which links the survey results to other data sources, confirm much of what our IW Best Plants program and other IW research has shown: Implementing best manufacturing practices improves performance.

These practices (the report calls them "structured management practices"), the report declares, "are tightly linked to better performance: establishments adopting more structured practices for performance monitoring, target setting and incentives enjoy greater productivity and profitability, higher rates of innovation and faster reemployment growth." The report, "Management in America," was pre
sented at the annual American Economic Association in San Diego on Jan. 4. Coming soon, say the report's authors, is a tool that will allow manufacturing establishments to benchmark their use of structured management practices against their peers.

IW provides such benchmarking tools right now, including the following:

  • IW Best Plants Benchmarking Database: For two decades, the IW Best Plants program has selected and honored America's top manufacturing facilities. Each year, we've built a benchmarking database from the finalists' entries. Find the latest here.
  • MPI Global Manufacturers Benchmarking Toolkit: The MPI Group, a research and advisory firm, conducts an annual benchmarking study of manufacturers that had its origins as IndustryWeek's Census of Manufacturers in 1997. That IW Census was the first large-scale, statistically reliable study of U.S. manufacturing performance metrics and management best practices. You can purchase the toolkit or an executive summary of the results.

Though these labor-intensive data products can be had for a fee, you can find -- for free -- extensive, detailed reporting and analysis of the research online at We've grouped all the IW Best Plants reports here.

Still, the most stunning and disturbing finding from our research, and supported by the U.S. Census study, is that many manufacturing executives appear either to ignore, or are ignorant of, these proven methods of improving plant productivity, profitability, innovation and growth. 

If you, for whatever reason, haven't begun implementing these strategies, begin today. If you've been practicing and enjoying the successes that come with these strategies, double down. You can start by turning to page 20 for inspiration and information from the 2012 IW Best Plants Award recipients, the latest in a long line of world-class, standard-setting plants.

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