Business Studies Trips: BMW and Coca-Cola Factories
BMW Mini Factory
In November the A2 Business Studies students visited the BMW Mini Factory in Cowley, Oxford. This has become part of the annual extra-curricular programme as it offers areas of interest to so many of the students as well as being so pertinent to the course. The tour guides are all retired or semi-retired employees with up to 30 years’ experience at the Cowley factory under its various owners. This means they can answer questions in depth on the evolution of the factory, particularly with regard to technology, productivity and the status of employees as a stakeholder
In the words of one of our A2 students, Sophie Wilson:
When visiting the BMW Mini Factory on 17th November, we were told to ensure that we looked at the ways in which the factory operates, asking questions relevant to our course about how the company are utilizing the development of e-commerce, operations in general, employee numbers and many other questions which would enable us to have a better insight into the practice of the topics we are studying at A2.
During our visit to the factory we were given a tour around the facilities and shown the process by which the parts of individual cars are made. Whilst viewing the different processes, apart from the painting process because of safety regulations, we were able to gain valuable information about the way in which the factory operates. I thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to ask questions about what the company’s capacity utilization was, as well as how the company has changed as a result of the increased availability of technology. If I were given the opportunity to re-visit the factory, I would like to spend even more time looking at and thoroughly understanding the assembly processes.
As part of their Unit 4 this year the students are researching e-commerce. They were amazed to find that today 90% of the Minis are ordered online and they are now studying the implications of this for the car industry in general and car showrooms in particular. It also provided useful data for another Unit 4 topic, impacts of globalization and emerging markets, to see the rapidly growing percentage of Minis that are exported to China. All in all it was a very useful trip, even for those in the class who are less passionate about cars.
A second departmental trip was organised in February for the AS level students to be taken around the Edmonton Coca Cola bottling franchise. Apart from the free drinks (!), they showed most interest in the robotics that have largely replaced people in the plant, which gave a ghostly feel to the factory and particularly to the pitch-black warehouses. In class, we had studied methods such as Just-In-Time (JIT) production, an inventory strategy that companies employ to increase efficiency and decrease waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, so reducing inventory costs. Students were able to see JIT production and motivational theory in practice, quality assurance methods and the importance of capacity utilisation. They agreed it helped their understanding of operations issues in the following weeks of the course.