Saturday, November 19, 2011

The value of programs supporting manufacturing SMEs

Released in September by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is a research report into the effectiveness of various Government programs from around the world that support manufacturing SMEs.

Programs from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Korea, Spain, and the UK and USA are analysed to determine effectiveness and return on investment for governments. NB: Enterprise Connect is the program analysed on behalf of Australia.

The report is quite extensive but in essence it comes to the conclusion that SME manufacturing support programs need to explicitly respond to the specific current challenges, needs, skills, and capabilities of a country’s SME manufacturing base, while at the same time charting a path to help SME manufacturers acquire the next generation of engineering, innovation, and product development and commercialisation skills.

Because SME manufacturers have to continually adapt to a changing landscape, the report argues that support programs must be as responsive. It suggests that analysing the composition of a nation’s manufacturing base, in terms of the "technological intensity" of its manufacturing sectors as either "low-technology", "medium-low technology", "medium-high technology", or "high-technology" is one way to do this.

When comparing Anglo-American programs with those of Germany/Japan, it is possible that German and Japanese SME manufacturers may be enjoying the benefits of the more advanced technical and engineering apprenticeship training programs these countries are renowned for (particularly Germany’s famed Technische Hochschules), meaning that their SME manufacturing support efforts have historically been able to focus more on the "front-end" of innovation, R&D, and new product development and introduction, instead of having to invest as much effort in assisting manufacturers with adopting lean manufacturing principles, improving process techniques, and adopting new technologies.
Click here to download a PDF of the full report.

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