11th March 2019

BHASVIC Business students visit the BMW Mini factory

On Monday 4th March our Business students had the opportunity to tour the BMW factory in Oxford. We observed the following concepts that are all designed to increase business success. 

Mass customization – every one of the 1,000 Minis that rolls off the technologically driven production line has been customised to meet a customer’s specific needs. When buying a new Mini a customer can make 2,500 decisions from the pattern on the roof to the size of the engine, so it is highly unlikely that two Minis will be made exactly the same. 

Capital vs labour intensive production – ultra-advanced robots weld each Mini body chassis together, while highly skilled employees work in teams to assemble every car after its been painted. Both methods of production have obvious benefits and some limitations. Technology can disrupt production when it breaks down (as we observed!), and their skilled employees from Europe are hard to retain when UK political decisions deter them.  

Investment appraisal – BMW have invested over £500 million in this industry leading factory since it opened in 1999. There are over 1,000 robots costing £160,000 each, the factory floor is equivalent to 24 football pitches, and BMW are currently reconfiguring this plant to manufacture the electric Mini. 

Quality assurance using the Gemba walk - a Gemba walk is a quality management activity that requires engineers to visit and observe factory floor problems, gather impact data, and agree solutions with the workforce. A Gemba walk is also an opportunity to look for waste and potential process improvements.  

We had a fascinating tour and are looking forward to returning with another bus load of interested Business students next year! 

Andrew Shepherd & Michael Gourley