The government has set up a GBP16m programme to help the UK's automotive manufacturing supply chain more competitive.

The SMMT Industry Forum – the organisation set up by the UK government, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and vehicle manufacturers to improve the competitiveness of the UK automotive supply chain – is to play an important role in the new initiative.

The National Manufacturing Competitiveness Levels (NMCL) programme, is funded by the government as part of its industrial strategy, and automotive sector deal, and has been jointly developed by the automotive and aerospace sectors. It aims to assess and improve competitiveness, raise workforce capacity and increase productivity of all types of UK manufacturers.

Along with other national providers SMMT Industry Forum will support the programme by helping companies understand how they can develop their business to become more competitive and win more orders. It claims a successful track record in this area, including improvement delivery in the government-funded Long Term Automotive Supply Chain Competitiveness (LTASC) programmes which created and safeguarded jobs, trained people and leveraged GBP41m private investment. It has also been involved in piloting the new NMCL model in the north west of England.

"What NMCL brings to the forefront is a set of criteria to benchmark against," said Andrew Simms, managing director of Unilathe, a manufacturer of machined and fabricated components for the aerospace and automotive sectors that has participated in the NMCL programme as a test case.

"As part of that process, you get the opportunity to talk about and address areas that need more focus. It sets a basis for a much more mature relationship with your customers."

NMCL is designed to help manufacturers of all sizes and stages of development understand how competitive they currently are and develop the specific business capabilities they need to boost their performance. The programme includes an in-depth competitiveness assessment based on company capabilities and the views of key customers.

This data is then applied to investment decisions across six areas of competitiveness; quality, cost, delivery, flexibility, products/technology and customer experience. Projects are tailor-made for each manufacturer and focus on boosting competitiveness, increasing 'value-add' and winning more orders.

Companies can undertake six month focused improvement projects through to multi-year company transformations depending on their potential and ambition.