Latest figures indicate that the UK still has an issue with productivity. The gap between the UK and the G7 average is widening. Its a long term problem which seems to be getting worse with subsequent governments having failed to close the gap. PGM Reball has a commercial office in Southern Germany so we are in a great place to be able to contrast and compare the UK culture against German practices. I have two thoughts about why we can’t overcome the widening productivity gap.
Firstly, our German friends do not have fixed school holidays, instead they are staggered by district which means there is no rush to get away. In the UK the schools broke up on Friday and there was a mad rush to get to Dover and over to France resulting in queues of traffic. This week no one is around. We are able to drive to work without sitting in traffic and eat at our favourite restaurant without having to book in advance. Most of our Suppliers have shut down for 2 weeks because its not worth opening. Its an unending cycle with businesses not opening because their customer or supplier is closed. Tradition plays a large part for example the ‘Coventry Fortnight’ was a set period of two weeks when the major manufacturers in Coventry closed – likewise in Birmingham and also Stoke where the shutdown period was known as the Potters Fortnight. Basically, in the UK we lose two weeks of production at this time of year because this is the start of the school holidays. In Germany production slows down but because the school holidays are staggered its a much smoother transition.
My second thought is that our German colleagues’ attitude to work seems to be so much more focused. There was a great BBC program ‘Make me a German’ (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b038669g) a couple of years ago which demonstrated this perfectly – our German office is exactly the same. When the Germans go to work – they work! They don’t text, chat about last night or drink tea. We once had a machinist who would play Solitaire on the CNC computer during the machine cycle – in Germany they take this time to clean down and prep for the next job. The machinist is no longer with us but the attitude was very much laissez faire. On the flip side the Germans work the hours they are scheduled and finish on time. They just seem to have a more efficient attitude to work. The Northern Powerhouse is all very well – however – we will not solve this UK problem until we look our culture at work in detail and ban the Solitaire!
Anne Ford is the Business Support Director at PGM Reball LTD – the UK’s leading technical Ballscrew Repair specialist.