The EEF Future Manufacturing Awards have rightly gained a reputation as the most rigorous and respected awards programme exclusively celebrating success in UK manufacturing. With categories ranging from health and safety to apprentices to partnerships, the awards always attract a wide range of nominees – from well-known major players to growing SMEs.
All nominations are reviewed in depth by a panel of judges, each with a particular set of industry expertise. One of our returning judging chairs is Professor Palie Smart at the University of Bristol. Prior to completing her PhD at Cranfield in the School of Applied Science Palie gained industrial experience in the manufacturing and professional services sectors at Racal Defence and Electronic Data Processing plc.
We recently sat down with Professor Smart to discuss why she supports these particular awards and what the judges look for in winning nominations.
Why did you decide to support the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards as a judge?
I’ve been involved with the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards since the beginning. As an innovation scholar, I wanted to see first-hand how the manufacturing sector is innovating. As a judge of these awards, I feel like I’m in a privileged position to hear success stories from the industry.
EEF has a close relationship with the government and is known as having a strong voice in the policy arena, so I wanted to get involved in getting these stories in front of the government. With these awards, you get a strong sense that these manufacturing companies’ voices are being amplified and heard. These stories are part of communicating a real and positive view of the manufacturing sector to the government as part of the initiative to rebalance the economy and support a strong industrial strategy.
What do judges want to see in a winning nomination? What separates someone from the pack?
I chair the Innovation panel, so I’m most familiar with that category. However, I’m sure these tips could apply to all the categories.
- Be a responsible manufacturer and go for the triple bottom line
Obviously, the judges like to hear about changes that have helped with financial business success, but think about how to quantify or qualify other benefits. Have the changes created any social or environmental benefits?
- Convey authenticity
We want to hear genuine and passionate success stories about changes that have made a real difference for people and the organisation. Make sure you can communicate that sense of impact and excitement using quotations from those who have benefitted from the changes.
- Dare to be different
There is so much variation in the entries each category receives, so don’t be afraid if your story doesn’t seem to fit with past winners.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about challenges (and how you overcame them)
While it can be tempting to put your best foot forward in your nomination, the judges also like to hear about what didn’t go as planned or unexpected roadblocks. How you dealt with challenges can be just as useful as explaining what went well.
- Use a critical friend
Think about getting your CEO or someone else senior to look at your entry. Sometimes they can provide a fresh perspective and suggest aspects to include you wouldn’t have thought of. Getting a second opinion can help refine your key messages.
- Showcase collegiality beyond the C-suite
Of course we want to hear from the C-suite! The most compelling award nominations are those that come from both the C-suite and their team members. Include team members who worked on the project in crafting your nomination. It conveys a sense that this was really a team effort that people are excited to share with the outside world.
- Evidence it!
The strongest story is one that utilises quantitative and qualitative evidence. Testimonials can be quite powerful. For example, if you say a certain change improved customer service, think about including an endorsement directly from one of your customers.
- Think big
In the Innovation category in particular, we often see a lot of incremental product and process innovation. It’s always refreshing to see more strategic innovations in the business model. Think about the big picture with a more hard hitting story.
- Industry recognition
Where does your improvement fit into the bigger ‘building UK manufacturing’ agenda? If possible, talk about what the win would mean for your organisation and the industry.
- Ooze confidence on the day
If you make it to the national judging day (when you present in person to the judging panel), make sure you project confidence. You are already a success if you have got to this stage!
Why should a business consider entering the Future Manufacturing Awards?
We often have companies who have won one year, nominate themselves in future years. When they come back, they always have something positive to say about how winning the award impacted their business in terms of raising their profile.
Beyond just impacting individual businesses, the awards are really important in gathering success stories from manufacturing. Too often when we turn on the news we hear negative things being said about the sector. There’s so much innovation going on, and we should be sharing that more widely.
The EEF Future Manufacturing Awards 2017 are open for entries.