When we arrived at the plant, we were received warmly by friendly staff. Immediately after, we were assigned into 2 tour groups to enhance our individual experience. Our funny, very experienced and knowledgeable tour guides, John and Terry had both worked in the production lines themselves many years ago. Through them, we came to realise how lucky we were, to be able to see the improvements brought by the £750 million investment on the plant in 2013. One of the main differences became obvious as John and Terry brought us to the 1st part of the assembly line – car assembly - from hundreds of separate, unpainted parts fresh from the Swindon plant. Together with the view of magnificent robotic arms, some reaching 7 metres high, we were utterly amazed as John and Terry brought us around the building, explaining the various assembly sections.
According to John and Terry, the plant’s manual workforce used to be a few times its current size. However, the automation of the assembly process has led to even higher production rates with fewer workers. We are also told that the plant is not operating at full speed yet because the assembly line was still new. It produced about 200 MINI cars per day compared to the 1200 MINI cars per day when it’s at full operation speed.
As we proceeded to the 2nd part of the assembly line in another building, we witnessed the benefits of the height-adjustable skillets first-hand. Workers no longer need to stretch or bend their knees to install components on the assembled car body. To further quicken the process, each car on the assembly line has a transmitter attached to it so that sensors could read all the important information including customers’ details and customization requests, and display them on the screen at workstations along the assembly line. Hence, different models with individual customizations can all be processed along the same line, further increasing the production efficiency.
With that, we came to the end of our tour. With ever growing demands in various countries, BMW MINI has shown us the importance to invest in streamlined production lines in any industry to ensure competitiveness, whilst taking the best efforts to reduce environmental impact. Today’s journey of knowledge is indeed a fruitful one. Therefore, on behalf of the society and all of us who attended the tour, I would like to thank John, Terry and the rest of the team for sharing their insights and years of experience in the production of a British icon – MINI.
Blog about past MES events.