Productivity – SMEs Making Slow Progress

UK Productivity and the SME focus

I do find it interesting in reading reports on UK Productivity and the SME focus on how there are a lot of SMEs making slow progress in this arena.

If we step back, which some reports have eluded to… the SME government funded programmes have always been based on growth and employment opportunities (NOT Productivity) so is it any wonder we have some issues. Growth and employment is an excellent focus and most SMEs want more, albeit it does bring its own set of issues and problems.

Additionally in reviewing the Growth and Employment Objective, I also question some of the programmes themselves. When I see that surveys have been completed across their customer base and the customer has highlighted they want Strategy and Tactical Planning, Continuous Improvement, but have been sold Website upgrades, Public Relations, etc. (again though this is aligned to the programme output of growth and employment??? Wrong objective, wrong KPI perhaps???)

Have we shot ourselves in the foot with the focus on Growth and Employment? In some respects, possibly, but we can do something about it? If we accept that’s it’s a problem of course.

Do we need to focus internally? Absolutely, if you want to drive productivity this is where the focus needs to be. (regardless of whether its operations, sales, back office)


Growth is far easier with operations that generate predictable and repeatable results. If they are not stable (least waste way of working) we will now exacerbate the effect on our already poor operational processes and performance (ie: Productivity)

Productivity is only one of the key KPI’s within a business, along with On Time Delivery, Quality, Cash, Profit, etc.. each may have a gap that needs to be worked on.

Each KPI (key performance indicator) needs to be monitored, managed and actioned.

The equation y=f(x) is one I always remember

Y: the outcome or outcomes, result or results, that you want

X: the inputs, factors or whatever is necessary to get the outcome (there can be more than one possible x)

F: the function or process that will take the inputs and make them into the desired outcome

Change the X and you change the Y (limit the variation in X we limit the variation in Y)

#manufacturing #ukmanufacturing #manufacturinguk #gbmfg #ukmfg #smeuk #sme #producitivty

Best Times to Post to LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook 2019

Most Marketers, Business Owners, Social Media Associates are always trying to find the magical time to post on each platform, unfortunately there is no magical time, there is no cheat, no silver bullet.

It depends on your ideal audience, industry, products/services, content, consistency (always be mindful of consistency), there are multiple variables in play when posting to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Knowing the best times based on overall engagement will certainly give guidance and may even help to strengthen your social media strategy, but as with all things marketing, test it.

Sprout Social (based on their data of 25000+ customer interactions) have listed the best times to post on some of the major platforms.

Here’s an overview of the engagement reports for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook


LinkedIn has seen significant increase in overall engagement, potentially making it a bigger consideration for your B2B marketing posts.

Sprout’s data shows the best time to post on LinkedIn is Wednesday, between 9am and 10am, and then at 12pm.

A quick overview of each weekday shows that; Monday is between 1pm-3pm; Tuesday is 9am, 1pm & 3pm; Wednesday 9am, 12pm; Thursday 9am, 1pm-3pm; Friday there seems to be a shift in morning to 10am-11am. (this is just my view but you can see the image for each platform and make your own judgements)

Best engagement is Wednesday with the least engagement occurring on Sundays.

Sprout LinkedIn


It still looks like Wednesday and Friday are producing results as previous data, with Tuesday to Friday at 9am being a big block, but you can see that there is a band covering Tuesday to Friday from 9am-11am as well. The Twitter engagement I do find interesting as there are quite a few views you could take on this. Again, try and test!

Sprout says that Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days to post your tweets overall, which you can see from the image, a big band cutting across 9am-3pm, Saturday sees the least engagement.

Sprout Twitter


The data suggests that updates posted on Facebook on Wednesdays, between 9am and 3pm, see the most engagement, Sprout narrows this down slightly from their analysis to between 11am-1pm. Thursday sees a good band between 9am-2pm and Friday also seeing high engagement between 9am-11am.

Sprout’s data also suggests that Sundays see the least amount of Facebook engagement overall.

Sprout Facebook

Excellent data from Sprout and you can view the full report ‘here’ for more on their opinion and analysis.

Business Funding

It can be a pain in understanding what funding is out there for businesses, so we have collated all the schemes and programmes currently covering English Postcodes and we’ll be keeping this up to date moving forward.

The image below is an example of the detail we have, it is huge so we are unable to display it all. If you would like to know more about what’s on offer in your area, please fill in the form below including your postcode and a brief description of why you want the funding, we’ll then be in contact.
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Miss that moment – and you start to decline.

“There is at least one point in the history of any company when you have to change dramatically to rise to the next level of performance. Miss that moment – and you start to decline.” – Andy Gove

My personal view and experience is that it’s more than one point in time.

SMEs are characterised by their ability to adapt easily to market changes and their lean organisational structure (not as in Lean Manufacturing), which results in a more dynamic environment and a quicker decision making process. Although SME businesses vary widely in size and capacity for growth generally they will all follow a similar path: going from Owner/Entrepreneur with two or three employees to a business aiming for £10m or even £20m per year, and experiencing 20%/30% year on year growth and upwards along this journey. The sketch below illustrates an example of this, showing where most businesses may feel the pinch points of growth at key intersections.

SME Journey and Growth

Zero to £5m

The hard work really kicks in here. This part of the journey is often the one that is the most lonely, but often the most exciting. But it is here that most business owners feel the pains. Because it can be a lonely place, it is easy for owners to doubt themselves, they also don’t know what they don’t know which can be a limiting factor. And as an owner one of the main areas of responsibility is simply getting things done, which means you are working in your business as a manufacturer, and not working on it as a strategic leader.

In smaller SMES, management structures are also small with most owners being very hands-on. People are stretched across all functions all processes. Systems are not in place, IT is minimal or non-existent and there is a lack of standard processes. Utilising the Continuous Improvement and Management graph we can see that all levels are being worked with a very lean structure. Small customer projects, odd-job shop style of working.

SME Zero to £5m

As we get closer to a turnover of £5m, it becomes clear that things need to change. We are then moving from that odd-job, one off customer delivery to a mix of bigger projects, possible increased volumes and an increase in market share from your customers. As we start to scale-up from the initial start-up, decisions have to be made about the organisational structure, the company’s technology infrastructure, its business and marketing strategy, etc. With regard to organisational structure, you might now start to see the requirement for supervisory position(s) to take on more of the owners duties, the labour force growing, new machines, loans, investment, functional departments, Operations, Quality, Sales, Technical, Finance. This is where it can be rise or decline with those decisions. In scaling and growth and the opportunities it also brings its own set of problems, (albeit they are nice problems to have because its growth).

£5m to £10m

IT Systems and Planning may start to become an issue here, Microsoft Excel may no longer be good enough to manage your shop floor requirements (although I have seen £100m business still using excel but it was beginning to creak), and you are likely at this level to be considering MRP/ERP implementations. You may also look at outsourcing some functions, like Sales, Human Resources, Engineering Support, Quality, Quality Accreditation. All this requires a lot of investment in terms of time, money and energy. You need to do your homework to avoid costly mistakes, especially where IT is concerned, but it’s all opportunity.

And this stage, the business owner is now becoming more removed from the day to day operational tasks on the shop floor. This can be a very uncomfortable feeling in one or two ways. Firstly, the owner may want that hands-on role and not relinquish that part. It could be that the business is now at the stage where the owner is stopping it from growing, the entrepreneurial side is restricted as they are tied to the business. There a number of factors and variables in play, and having the right people is key, being a good leader is fundamental (at all stages).

SME £5m to £10m

£10m upwards

Financial Audits are required at this point (although some companies can be exempt if they satisfy certain criteria), so businesses need to be aware of the UK Audit requirements. Similar issues and opportunities still arise, but on a grander scale. Organisational structures are still fundamental, we might now start to see the need for Middle Management. We may also be looking to diversify into new markets, take on bigger orders, and higher volume. From £5m and up, some of your customers may not be the ones you want to deal with now, the one-off, low volume, job shop may not be your ideal customer. You might be seeing more of a need for Product Flow and Cells (Lean Manufacturing is a must from when you first start up), competition is high so you cannot stand still, even if your decision is to stay at a certain level. You will need to be driving for improvements to maintain the status quo, and your service has to be exceptional. Collaboration with a network of Manufacturers and or Partners, in my opinion, is key in this new world, and can bring some fantastic opportunities for growth. Again, IT infrastructure comes into play as the business is getting bigger: more employees, management leadership. The addition of new premises or additional buildings on the same industrial estate (this is where having a world class logistics operations pays dividends in not impacting your efficiency/productivity). The opportunities may now open up bringing the out-sourced services back in house, Sales and Human Resources, etc. At this level, you are likely to be making informed decisions based around data. Strategy alignment throughout the organisation is required, communicated and disseminated so everyone in the organisation knows the direction the company is going in and what the priorities are.

SME £10m upwards

Every business is different. One business’s pinch point may be at £3.5m another’s £7.5m but there will be very similar decisions to be made, but at this level the advantage is that businesses are likely to be able to make these decisions in a more informed way through data. Companies may not achieve sustained profitable growth unless they draft in the specialist skills required at the right time for the business. It’s the maxim that we don’t know what we don’t know. And the best advice is to seek advice from the experts in order to shift the dial in the right direction. This is something we can certainly help with, just contact the number below.

Ask yourself:

How much will it cost you not to resolve the issues that you are currently facing now or in the immediate future? How much will it cost you not to eliminate that pain? What are the lost opportunities on not taking your business to the next level or indeed keeping it at the level you want?

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