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Wednesday, August 18, 1999 Published at 06:30 GMT 07:30 UK

Business: The Company File

Nissan's efficiency drive rewarded

The Sunderland plant uses Japanese assembly techniques

Nissan's factory in Sunderland has been named Europe's most productive car plant for the third year running.

Last year it made 105 cars for each employee, up from 98 the previous year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's annual audit of passenger car production.

Nissan UK's John Cushnaghan: "Result of 12 years' hard work"
That made it 28% more efficient than the joint second place plants, run by Volkswagen and General Motors. Nissan is ranked at number 10 in the world.

"It's not a case of making people work harder," Nissan UK's head, John Cushnaghan, told the BBC.

[ image: The Nissan plant produces 289,000 cars a year]
The Nissan plant produces 289,000 cars a year
"It's a matter of doing things better, having a very professional and sound manufacturing system, and getting first-time quality right every time. Quality and high performance in quality delivers productivity."

Success at the Sunderland plant, which has a total of 4,200 employees, reflects continuous improvement using assembly techniques employed in Japan, the EIU said.

However, profitability at Nissan's UK manufacturing operations fell 70% last year to 23m, mostly due to the strength of sterling.

The results for other UK plants were:

  • Toyota at Burnaston near Derby - 72 vehicles per worker

  • Honda at Swindon - 64

  • Ford at Dagenham - 61

  • General Motors at Luton - 43

  • Rover at Longbridge - 30

    The report said productivity at Longbridge was poor, but was "exacerbated by refurbishment of the plant at a time when demand was falling sharply".

    More emphasis on training

    The GM plant was not operating to capacity and its productivity was "limited by insufficient demand for its models", said the survey.

    Overall productivity in Europe's car plants rose to an average 52 cars per employee last year from 47 in 1997.

    "Cars are being made on a reduced number of platforms, with fewer 'building blocks' and this, along with a much greater emphasis on training and new flexible work practices, is enhancing Europe's productivity," said the report.

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