This week a group of Sixth Form Product Design Technologists travelled to the BMW Mini production facility at Cowley, near Oxford. The site, which began with the production of the Morris Oxford in 1913 and manufactured MG cars for many years, is currently home to the production of the third generation Mini.
The group toured the Body in White facility and at one point stood on a gantry, surveying 360 degrees of the continuous movement of 2100+ robots, all busily picking, moving and welding the body shells of vehicles as they moved along the production line. It was quite a sight to be surrounded by £10.5m+ of unceasing robotic manufacture and really brought aspects of the curriculum to life to see just how the parts are combined.
The pupils then went on to look at how Lean Manufacture and Just-in-Time production methods are used in the assembly plant, where overall it takes a Mini around 28 hours to go from a highly scheduled set of parts to a running vehicle, with over 95% working from first start. Quality control, logistics and team work were highlighted and it was quite mind blowing to see how the planning and scheduling, from six weeks before, was played out.
Head of Product Design Technology, Dom Evans, said:“The group were given a real insight into how the use of technology helps build each car and how its ‘DNA’ of data supports every stage; from the time and power used in each weld to the smooth running of the assembly line, data was collected and stored. The facility’s environment was safe, clean and highly organised as one would expect. Our thanks to all at BMW Cowley but especially John Strange our guide for the afternoon”.