The quality of manufactured products in Britain and Germany

Pub. Date
01 December, 1995
Pub. Type

This paper is concerned with the relation between workforce skills and high-quality production, based on samples of products manufactured and consumed in Britain and Germany. Detailed investigations of specific products sampled from three industries - clothing, garden tools, manufactured foods - indicate that Britain produces little of the top-quality grades - in contrast to a strong German presence at that end of the market. The average British-made product embodied fewer quality-features than its German-made counterpart to the extent that, at common prices, German-made products incorporated an additional 55 per cent of the real value of British-made goods.

Two broad aspects of workforce skills which contribute to higher-quality production were identified: (1) the skills and training relevant at the design-interface between consumer demand and production realities, and (2) the skills and training relevant to small and medium-sized batch-production of specialised varieties. The findings were based on factory visits and discussions with trade experts in both countries. A further stage of the project has a bearing on international comparisons of real income per head and productivity.

Existing comparisons based on official statistics of production and prices do not take adequate account, according to this investigation, of differences in product-quality. Based on a close matching of quality-grades of ten sampled products, it seems that proper adjustment for quality would substantially increase estimates of the German real productivity advantage in manufacturing (to around 50 per cent over Britain), and raise estimates of real income per head to some 40 per cent over Britain (in comparison with 15 per cent as estimated by OECD for 1991).

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