A little gathering

We knew from the outset of our half-day visit to the Mini factory would be interesting when they equipped us with overalls and safety goggles. We started in the body shop: built nearly a year ago this goliath came to a whopping cost of £750 million. Here, an almost fully automated production line makes the shell of the car, with each part of the shell being made by specially programmed machines, and every step production divided into cells where these specialised machines work. It was here we discovered why the overalls and safety googles were needed: sparks rained down on us as machines spot-welded different pieces of car together, building the distinct shape of a Mini. Throughout the factory, all space is utilised (even the roofs) to maximise efficiency and to ensure that everything is working at full capacity. We also learnt that Mini make all their cars to order (so all 900 cars produced per day have already been bought) and that they use the 'just in time' method of production, meaning that all the machines have to work in harmony to ensure that production can continue.

We then moved to the next part of the factory where the whole car is brought together, including windows, doors and any personalised gadgets. It is was evident that as well as efficiency, quality is key because throughout the process the car is checked for faults and if any are found the whole production line could be shut down; even as the cars are ready to leave they are driven off to be tested. Once given the seal of approval the cars are sent to customers all around the world.

We ended our tour at their gift shop where a multitude of Mini based goods were being sold (as could be expected). Overall, it was an educational and extremely exciting visit: with thanks to Mrs Hang-Campbell and Ms Sealy for leading the morning.