Top performers in global manufacturing are actually capitalising on the fluctuations in the economy by hedging their bets and making IT project choices strategically, rather than reacting to events. What’s more, they span all industries and five of the top 10 are UK-based (Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher, Smith Nephew, Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser). These are key findings of a study by Deloitte Research, which concludes that leaders like Dell, Oracle and Nokia focus their investments on improving immediate competitive advantage while simultaneously shoring themselves up against forecast developments. Success appears to be determined by companies’ ability to deal with uncertainty and exploit this to their advantage. It will make interesting reading for manufacturers faced with the prospect of another apparent lurch downwards in manufacturing output. Figures released yesterday show factory output down 0.8% in March, while those for February have been revised down from the posted 0.4% increase to just 0.2%, although telecoms and high tech still take the brunt, now joined perversely by pharmaceuticals and automotive which had been high performers last month. Top of Deloitte’s IT support list are CRM (customer relationship management), systems to support product innovation, supply chain management, HR, and business intelligence infrastructure – leveraging existing technology investments, rather than going for additional, large, potentially unnecessary implementations. Says Julian Thomas, UK Manufacturing & Automotive Industry Leader for Deloitte: “By focusing on [these], flexible companies are well positioned for this current upswing. “Over the last 18 months, we have seen the manufacturing sector uniquely affected by this period of uncertainty. This is evidenced by the fact that it is one of the earliest industries to begin an upswing. “We’ve seen that organisations employing strategic flexibility, planning for various contingencies and making educated choices about the path they follow, typically have the resources in place for multiple eventualities.” Deloitte’s ‘Performance Amid Uncertainty: A Global Manufacturing Perspective’ explores the winning practices of the best, and describes guiding principles that can make any company more successful, irrespective of economic conditions. It includes the firm’s Top 100 global manufacturing performers, with rankings by industry segment and region, and shows that good manufacturing organisations have grown savvy about their economic environment and are planning and implementing systems accordingly.