After a long period of economic weakness there are clear signs that the UK economy is recovering. This is therefore an important moment for a renewed focus on the longstanding challenge of productivity in Britain. Business and government have a clear common interest in addressing the UK’s poor productivity performance: it is central to raising living standards and making our businesses more globally competitive.
As head of one of the UK’s largest food and drink companies and the sector’s representative on a group of senior business leaders developing proposals for improving productivity, I believe this is a policy challenge where manufacturers’ practical experience makes us uniquely qualified to contribute. Modern food and drink production, with nearly 400,000 people in more than 6,000 companies, is at the heart of the UK food chain and at the sharp end of global competition for investment and market share.
The sector has been a quiet success story of the last five years, increasing productivity by 11% compared with 0.6% for the economy as a whole through investment in people and technology – often driven by global competition. Nestlé’s people have seen expectations and demands rise, but they know they are in a global race and I am proud of how they have risen to the challenges.
The factsheets that follow contain insights from that experience, with case studies based on Nestlé’s long tradition of advanced manufacturing across the UK. They are intended to inform the debate launched by the Chancellor in July 2015 with some of Nestlé’s own experience. At the heart of this are the deep links between productivity gains, new technology and sustained improvements by our people at all levels. Most important has been the recognition that we succeed best by empowering our people to identify quality improvements and drive efficiency through the business, and by equipping them to do so.
These insights, whilst particular to Nestlé, have wide applicability. They reflect important perspectives on the challenge of raising the UK’s overall productivity, and I hope are useful evidence for business and government alike in shaping their contribution to fixing the UK productivity problem.
Dame Fiona Kendrick
Chairman and CEO, Nestlé UK & Ireland