Tim Potter, managing partner of accountancy firm HURST, together with a senior team from NatWest in Manchester, led a delegation of north west manufacturers on a tour of Jaguar Land Rover’s factory on Merseyside to discover what lessons could be learned from the plant’s success.
After visiting Halewood, it’s easy to understand why JLR’s operation in the UK has been hailed as one of the greatest manufacturing success stories of our time.
Demand for the Range Rover Evoque and the Freelander 2 is so intense that around 600 vehicles a day come off the production line, bound for locations including China, the United States, Russia and other countries across Europe.
The sheer logistical genius of the operation is hugely impressive. It’s the most thought-out, efficient production line I’ve seen by some distance.
There are hundreds of variations of each vehicle, from three and five-door models to left-hand and right-hand drive versions, extra air conditioning for desert motoring, warmer heaters designed for Scandinavia, different oils and lubricants to suit different markets and climates – the combinations go on and on.
JLR knows its target markets and has ensured that it can effectively cater to each of their specific needs, a point we all need to consider when serving our own customers.
Every car is built as an individual, and most components are installed automatically, with sensors identifying if anything is fitted incorrectly. The robotics are something to behold.
We are told too often ‘It can’t be done’, but this operation is a great example of how anything is possible.
The plant employs 4,500 people, having tripled in three years. JLR has invested in its workforce at all levels, demonstrating a huge commitment to apprenticeships and expanding each person’s skills base through training and qualifications.
It comes across clearly that the employees are fully engaged and really believe in what they do, the products and the business they represent.
Then there is the commitment to the future. Earlier this year, JLR invested £45m in Halewood with an impressive new stamping line, the first of its kind in the UK.
JLR is already planning six years ahead in terms of product innovation, committing to a long-term investment in UK manufacturing and the overall British economy.
We all came away inspired by a highly-sophisticated factory, run by dedicated people producing quality vehicles.
There is a lot for all industries to learn from businesses such as JLR, its attitude to change, the continuous innovation and evolution of what it does, and the resounding belief that anything is possible if you apply yourself properly.
We act as advisers for a number of very sophisticated manufacturers on their strategy, financial management and business planning. Our clients typically turn over between £5m and £50m, and beyond.
If I were to select one sector of our client base that I see as the most ‘can-do’, gutsy and imaginative, it has to be manufacturing and engineering. These companies have to be, because overseas competition is so intense.
Moreover, these clients lead the charge with our export markets developing, nurturing relationships in the emerging markets.
The purpose of our visit was to inspire our manufacturing clients to do what they do better, and to see for themselves how JLR has become a game-changer.
Made in Britain is a label to be proud of on the global stage. The huge strides made by JLR in recent years embody the positive qualities this conveys and can be held up as a shining example of what can be achieved.
We hope our visit will give the companies which participated a new perspective, encourage them to think outside of their existing confines and develop ideas, especially in the use of modern technology to improve what they do.
We were all left thinking that if what we saw can be so successful on such a vast scale, there is huge potential to innovate within the mid-market sector in which we specialise.