Thirty-seven Fifth Year economists visited the Mini assembly factory at Cowley, Oxford for a fascinating insight into global manufacturing. The main purpose of the visit was to see the Mini assembly plant. Students were guided through the ‘body in white’ plant, where panels manufactured in a Mini plant in Swindon, are welded together to form the main body of the car. Students had the opportunity to ask questions as well as watch the robots spot welding at close quarters. In the ‘assembly plant’ they witnessed a more labour-intensive operation and the visit enabled them to see the specific tasks performed by a combination of human endeavour and automation.
Globalisation and trade issues were discussed as part of the tour, with 90% of the daily output of 1000 cars heading for overseas markets. There were many facts that sparked the imagination of the students including the additional reflective strips on the wheel arch regulated by the US market, the diversion of BMW investment from the UK to manufacturing within mainland Europe and the twice-daily train that leaves the Cowley plant to deliver over 60% of their output directly to the port of Southampton.