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November 22, 2012

A Grand Day out at Jaguar

This week I had the privilege of reliving my childhood days by going on a ‘school trip’ or as we like to call it at WMG, an ‘industry visit’. At WMG, we regularly organise day trips out to companies for our MSc students so they can learn and experience the workings of business, management and manufacturing in real life industry so to compliment their MSc and further enhance their understanding.

This week was one of our popular visits to British luxury car manufacturer Jaguar.

A bit of background...

The visit to Jaguar was really interesting and educational. We learnt a lot about the company, the processes and philosophies. So I thought I’d start with a bit of background and a few fun facts…

Jaguar, formally owned by Ford, since 2008 have been owned by Indian firm ‘TATA’, a family run yet huge company encompassing a number of businesses under its umbrella.

It is this year celebrating its 75th anniversary of the Jaguar name and it’s come a long way in terms of innovation, design, leadership and its evident success since the SS 100, the first named Jaguar in 1935. Its latest model, the F-type (pictured) based on the popular E-type will be released in April and is likely to bring some tough competition to the market.

Jaguar F-Type

Jaguar has also designed the ‘C-X75’ a car of the future. It’s a low emission and dare I say ‘electric’ but this should not put you off as it’s designed to deliver the same high performance as its fossil fuel counterparts reaching speeds of over 200 mph. Although if anything perhaps makes you think twice, the price may be just that, priced at approximately £700,000 - £800,000!

Each car at Jaguar is made to order and whilst there are standard fixtures that can be bought, it can also be personalised to the customers’ preference. Our very own Prime Minister travels in his XJ X351 model with specially designed features including bullet proof windows, bomb proof body, run proof tyres and a self-contained oxygen supply!

Back to the Visit…

The best part for me was the tour of the assembly line. Formally the place that Spitfires came to life ready for war, the factory now contains the intricate workings of the Jaguar assembly line starting from the aluminium body parts being put together by £250,000 Kawasaki robots with precision accuracy up to the finished product, with its perfectly polished painted body, and the leather of 10 well-kept cows ensuring comfort within. Though I shouldn’t skip too quickly over the ‘robots’ – they were incredible. The nearest I’m getting any time soon to a real life transformers movie. Camera photography was prohibited in the assembly line so I’ve found this nice little video to give you an idea (visual only unless you have good German language skills) ...

Management and Logistics

From its earlier days under Ford’s ownership, Jaguar has been working under the Ford Production System. But through greater efficiency and lean manufacturing practice and their ‘Just in Time’ approach, Jaguar plan to have adapted to their own production system by 2014 to ensure maximum efficiency whilst preserving the value to the customer.

Logistics are provided by DHL, Jaguars logistics partner who work on site constantly to ensure the flow of materials onto the production line for exactly when they are needed.

Something else that came through to me on my visit to Jaguar was the positivity and cheeriness of the staff. Whilst I’m sure it’s needn’t be said that staff should aim to make a good impression with visitors, I felt genuine happiness amongst the staff and workers I encountered at the Jaguar plant. On the assembly line, whilst there is great pressure for staff to keep the operation moving, there was always a welcoming smile from production line workers. It reminded me of the friendly and British politeness I often encounter at passport control in Birmingham airport (yes I’m serious). Perhaps it’s a Midlands thing! But genuinely in listening to a presentation after the tour, he explained the importance of staff feeling valued at Jaguar, from involving employees in ‘continuous process improvement’ to reward and recognition schemes plus little bonuses such as having a nice Jag for the weekend (yes please). Additionally how can staff not feel happy when a call for assistance alarm on the assembly line resembles ‘merry-go-round’ music to make you feel like you’re at the fair or Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer to remind us that Christmas is coming. Each time the call alarm was pressed and the music played, I couldn’t help but smile even if it did feel a tad surreal.

Thank you to Bob and Mick for our tour, to Jim Wilkins, Partnership Centre Delivery Officer for the fine presentation and the whole team at Jaguar who made for a fun and interesting day out!

WMG MSc students can look forward to several further visits this year including other car manufacturers, electricity firms, information security companies and various exhibitions to compliment the learning on their WMG courses.

There's far more to learning at WMG than having you heads in the books.

If you’ve been on a ‘Grand Day out’ at Jaguar, let us know what your thoughts.

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