14th March 2023

Business visits the BMW Mini factory

On Friday 24th February our Business and Economics students had the opportunity to tour the BMW factory in Oxford. We observed the following concepts that are all designed to increase business success.

Business visit to the BMW Mini factory  

Mass customization – every one of the 1,000 Minis that daily 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 it has been painted. Both methods of production have obvious benefits and some limitations. Robots can operate 24/7 with greater speed and accuracy than humans, but because they still need us to maintain them and complete the trickier details in the process, breaks in production happen when it's lunch time, as we observed!

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 size of the factory floor is equivalent to 24 football pitches, and BMW recently reconfigured this plant to manufacture the electric Mini. As a result BMW’s profits are 150% higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Quality assurance using the Andon chord – in manufacturing, Andon is a system which notifies managers and employees of a quality or process problem. The alert is activated by a worker pulling the chord to pause production so the issue can be corrected.

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

Andy Shepherd & Kate Gostage
Business and Economics