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History of UK Biscuit Manufacturing Industry

2992 words (12 pages) Business Assignment

22nd Dec 2020 Business Assignment Reference this

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The term biscuits from French means ‘twice-cooked’ -covers different pastries which have similar features of it being either dry, crisp (in contrast to cake, is highly moist after it has being baked). Due to this, biscuits have the highest chance compared to other baked products to get into international trade (Mason et al 2014). Moreover, the UK’s biscuit manufacturing industry makes different grain-based snack products. In 2018-2019, the number product; sweet biscuit was said to have generated a revenue of 36.1%. Operators also produce crackers, preserved cakes and pastries, and snack foods which are made from grains. The demand for biscuits is widely driven by the demand from the markets that is based on customer demand. The UK’s biscuit manufacturing industry is fairly disintegrated with just three organizations holding market shares of more than 5% (reference). The three organisations are the United Biscuits with brands such as McVitie’s and Jacob’s, Burton’s Foods, owners of Maryland Cookies, Jammie Dodgers and Wagon Wheels, and Walkers Shortbread, producer of the traditional.

Issues with the resourcing and development in biscuit manufacturing companies in the UK

Resourcing is all about organisation focusing on the long-term needs of their company whereas development is when values are added to employees in an organisation by training them (Taylor, 2019). According to IBISWORLD (2019), the UK’s biscuit manufacturing industry has about 23,416 work force. Mason et al (1994) conducted a study about the biscuit manufacturing industry in UK and other European countries (Germany, France and the Netherlands) which highlighted that, the British biscuit manufacturing workforce skills is polarized between unskilled employees i.e. individuals with neither a degree nor vocational qualifications. In the vocational qualifications and training, the lowest levels of formal vocational qualification were found in Britain. In the case of the British, there was different form of qualifications acquired through employment-based apprenticeships and full-time vocational course however, the capacity of workers who have those qualification was rather small by continental standard. Moreover, the workforce also includes highly skilled people with university degree in their field. As already mentioned, most of the supervisors in the British industry have no kind of technical or vocational training and their engineering departments were busy managing emergency repairs.

Furthermore, some of the issues needed the attention of most qualified managers and project engineers. However, the problems reported is due to lack of skills, for example, the less transferability of skilled employees among different products and tasks. Again, majority of the British managers voiced out that, the restrictions on flexibility is as a result of the need for wrapping machines to cool down at the end of every products. In addition, the issues mentioned above were hardly started in the other European countries; their prevalence in Britain was regular with the increased rates of faulty machines. The frequency of machine breakdown was more in the British sample with the most typical issues originating from hard worked conveyors belts, wrapping and carton-sealing machines.

Why is the UK productivity level of biscuit manufacturing companies lower than companies in continental Europe?

“Food processing is a prominent example of ‘light’ manufacturing in which the productivity gap between Britain and most other leading industrialised nations has historically been found to be low relative to other branches of manufacturing (Prais, 1981; Broadberry and Crafts, 1990; Broadberry and Fremdling, 1990; cited by Mason et al 1994)”. For that reason, Britain is seen to be in an industry where they have a comparative advantage and their comparative disadvantage is to some extent lower. 

However, in British food processing, their plant-sizes are mostly bigger than that of other industrial nations including United States. Due to this, there have being frequent questions to why the scale-economies is unable to develop the productivity performance of the British.

Early comparative studies showed that, the British manufacturing productivity issues which is relative to other progressive industrial nations is not only lower quantities made by each employee but also of minimized product quality levels. The British market is distinguished by 6% however, there is an increase import share of consumption especially those of higher-priced differences. 

This table shows the percentage changes in output, employment and labour productivity in national biscuit industries 1980-1990.

 

Britain

Netherlands

Germany

France

Output

+16

+43

+73

+14

Employment

-37

-4

-4

-18

Output per employee

+84

+49

+80

+39

The percentage of Biscuit export and import shares from 1980-1990

 

Exports/production

Imports/consumption

 

1980

1990

1980

1990

Britain

12

142

2

6

Netherlands

31

43

12

22

Germany

17

38

29

29

France

10

15

15

27

Estimates of productivity levels in biscuit manufacturing (a)

Output (tons) per employee-hour

 

NIESER samples (1989-1991) (b)

National Production Censuses (1990) (c)

Britain

100

100

Netherlands

115

140

Germany

80

75

France

105

125

In Britain, the average value added per ton of biscuits is about 40% less compared to Germany and 10-15% less in France and the Netherlands. After this value added index is put together with the previous measures about the output per employee-hour in every national industry, quality adjusted productivity levels in Britain are still under by 30% in Germany, 20% in Netherlands and 15% in France (Mason et al, 1994). Moreover, these outcomes conclude that, the substantial input of inter-country variation among product qualities to international differs in real productivity levels in the biscuit manufacturing. Furthermore, the dissimilarities of quality are the most important factor in the productivity gap among Britain and France. In regard to this, the exception is when the Dutch industry succeeded in out-performing Britain mainly by the way of producing medium quality biscuits. The estimated variations in quality adjusted labour productivity levels among Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands are largely reflected in the form of inter-country differences in hourly labour charges. Mason et al (1994) study shows that, during the 1989-1991, the average labour price per employee-hour in the food processing and associated industries were about 15-35% less in Britain than that of Germany, France and the Netherlands. 

What HR practices can UK biscuit manufacturing companies use to increase their competitiveness in the marketplace?

HR practices are the ways in which human resource practitioners use to improve an organization and their employees (Bratton and Gold, 2012). The study conducted by Mason et al (1994) highlighted that, the British plants announced a minimum of 10% of planned machine-working time lost as a result of the breakdowns and unpredictable cutoffs whereas the other countries faced only 3-4% downtime. This imbalance was in connection with various priorities in respect of preventative maintenance i.e. during the visitation of the British plants, only a fifth was announced serious efforts to have a regular upkeep whiles in the Dutch and German plants, four-fifths reported had enforced a detailed maintenance programmes and French plants two-thirds. Furthermore, the National Institute carried out an international comparisons which showed that, most of British biscuit plants turn out to be caught in a dangerous circle with an increase level of emergency upkeep militating against the beginning of preventative maintenance method which could help minimize the occurrence of breakdowns.

This dilemma showed the stress that the British managers had to work machinery harder and longer than those on the continent to be able to gain a fast payback on new investments. As mentioned above, the high levels of urgent downtime in Britain were also linked with lack of production management, supervisory and other workforce skill. The study showed some reasons to why the comparable rates of urgent downtime and wastage of product in Britain sample were transferred by managers evaluations of their engineering department. Firstly, in one plant, there was maintenance workers who were not quick to acknowledge issues and failing to handle the problems in a way to enable them avoid it happening. Secondly, the beginning of a preventative upkeep policy was dismissed because jobs might either take a long time or not completed properly. 

In order for Britain to challenge the other three advanced industrial countries, it has to have a great policies that will enable them to have a broad provision of full and part time vocational studies to acknowledge the basic among vocational colleges and employment based schemes. Firstly, Britain needs to align the needs of the industry with what their employees expect in order for them to feel valued and be motivated to go the extra mile for the success of the company (Stairs and Galpin, 2010).  According to Buckley et al (2016), matching the needs of an organization to what their workers wants helps to a good hiring decisions and contributes to the success of business strategy. In this case, the British plants needs to ensure that, the assign their skilled workers with the role that best fit them to allow them perform better at that field for the company to achieve their aims.

Recruitment and selection is about a company hiring the right people, with the right skills, for the right job as the success of a business is dependent on the quality of the employees (Armstrong and Taylor, 2017). In relation to the case study, Britain they need to ensure that they have a recruitment and selection policy is in to help them employ the right skilled workers and also for the industry to acquire its short and long term goals. Example from the case study, the Dutch plants had skilled workers because of their recruitment criteria for supervisory and process positions whereas most of the German employees were hired from the apprenticeship bakery with higher skills for the field.

Furthermore, it was highlighted in the study that the British plants had unskilled workers. In this case, a special training should be provided to these individuals as they are seen to have the potentials for the job. According to Linos and Reinhard (2015), hiring should not be based on like for like but rather on what the individual can offer to the company and their experience because some candidates might not have the qualification but have what it takes to be part of the organization.

Most importantly if Britain follows a continuing training programme, it will help their engineering department boost the skills and knowledge of the workers and enable them becoming the best in electronics in comparisons to French (Mason et al 1994). Continuous training is one crucial factor in HR practices as it allows managers to highlight the areas of improvement by so doing, they are able to evaluate the situation and provide the employees with training which gives them more confident and knowledge regarding their industry (Paine, 2019).  In the German plant, their supervisory workers were provided with advanced training to help them develop their skills and knowledge for the job and also helped them to support the production process. Not only the German’s plant enhance their workers with training but also the Dutch plants ensured that, they better their training programme in order to have the best candidates for the job to achieve their goals. The study conducted by Mason et al (1994) shows that, the French plants spent an average of 3.5% of their total wages on continuing training.

Moreover, if the UK biscuit manufacturing practices the above HR practices then they will be able to have the best candidates for the industry which will help them stand out in their competitive market place.

Conclusion:

In summary, the study has shown that, an overview of how the UK biscuit manufacturing industry was operated in 1994 and the type of workforce they had during that period in comparison to the other continental countries. It is important for every company no matter the country it is based to ensure that they recruit the right candidates for the job if they want to win over their competitors.

The comparison of the four European countries highlighted that the productivity level of the British plants was lower than that of Germany, French and the Netherlands and so they need to improve on their business strategy to remain in the competitive market. Not only was there a higher quality in the German, French and Netherland plants but also their productivity level was high.

More Manufacturing Content

References:

  • Taylor S (2019) Resourcing and Talent Management Seventh Edition London: Kogan Page
  • Mason G, Wagner K and Ark B (1994) Productivity, Product Quality and Workforce Skills: Food Processing in Four European Countries [Online] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5200667_Productivity_Product_Quality_and_Workforce_Skills_Food_Processing_in_Four_European_Countries [Accessed 13th November, 2019]
  • IBISWORLD (2019)
  • Bratton J and Gold J (2012) Human Resource Management: Theory and Practice 5th Edition UK: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Paine N (2019) Workplace Learning: How to build a culture of continuous employee development United Kingdom: Kogan Page
  • Buckley M R, Halbeslenben B R J and Wheeler R A (2016) Research in Personnel and Human Resource Management United Kingdom: Emerald Books
  • Stairs, M and Galpin, M (2010) Positive engagement: from employee engagement to workplace happiness The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology and Work New York: Oxford University Press
  • Armstrong, M and Taylor, S (2017) Armstrong’s Handbook of Human Resource Management Practices 14th Edition United Kingdom: Kogan Page
  • Linos, E and Reinhard, J (2015) A head for hiring: The behavioural science for recruitment and selection CIPD [Online] https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/a-head-for-hiring_2015-behavioural-science-of-recruitment-and-selection_tcm18-9557.pdf [Accessed 16th November, 2019]

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