DURHAM, NC-A majority of manufacturers in the five largest western manufacturing nations are reporting productivity gains in 2003.

In a survey study by TBM Consulting Group, Germany led the way with 54.5 percent of respondents saying their companies had made productivity gains in 2003. In the United States, 51.7 percent of respondents said their companies were working more efficiently at the close of the past year. In the United Kingdom 47.4 percent of respondents said their companies were continuing to improve, while in Brazil and Mexico, 46.7 and 38 percent of respondents said their companies made recent productivity gains.

In the United States, the survey results are in line with government figures showing continuing gains in productivity in the first part of 2004.

In all five countries, the survey indicates that companies are using both new technology and new management techniques to increase efficiency. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said technology will play a role in increasing productivity in 2004, while 63.8 percent said their companies also planned to focus on human capital to drive improvements. In the latter area, lean manufacturing techniques were cited by 40 percent of respondents as playing a role in productivity improvements. In the United States, 71.2 percent of respondents incorporating management changes said they are using a lean manufacturing approach to productivity.

Manufacturers in all five areas also indicated an increased commitment to employee training, with 62.2 percent of U.S. respondents saying it was part of their company's productivity efforts. In Brazil, 80 percent of respondents involved in productivity efforts said employee training was a priority.

"The study suggests manufacturers in all highly industrialized countries are increasingly adopting a technology-friendly approach to improving productivity," says TBM senior partner Bill Schwartz, director of the company's LeanSigma Institute. "The inclination to increase technology and employee training suggest that the manufacturing community understands the need to improve and motivate."

TBM conducted its study in April, gathering 1,100 responses from large and midsize companies in five countries. For more on the study, call 800-438-5535 or visit www.tbmcg.com.