A Mini adventure at the BMW factory
Eight groups of lower sixth Business and Accounting students toured the BMW Mini plant in Oxford earlier this year, enjoying a half day out together with class mates as well as a chance to see mass customisation and successful high value manufacturing in practice. The tour included both the body plant and the final assembly lines, with much detail on the combined use of labour and capital intensive production. This will help the students immensely as they move on to the second year and need to analyse the impacts of technology, innovation and automation on businesses and the workforce.
The engineering enthusiasts enjoyed the detail about the robots and feedback in subsequent classes was interesting:
It was quite an experience to see car manufacturing on such a scale and at such a speed and so we learnt a lot…. The staff seemed comfortable working alongside the robot. This was surprising as some of them could feel threatened as the new technology starts to take over their jobs, e.g. the soft robot that worked directly as an assistant to an assembly worker and the new automated fork lift vehicles that no longer need a driver.
The new fork lift vehicles were being trialled that day and there was a sense of excitement among the R&D staff involved with the testing but the students commented on the likely feelings of the current drivers watching this. Students were interested to see the contrast when they moved on to the assembly plant at how much work such as assembling the interiors which still requires the skill of a teams of human workers, who cannot be replaced entirely by robots.
The students asked a lot of questions as they walked around and found the tour guides who had worked at the plant in the past the most interesting with their answers. It was a productive and informative day with some extremely positive and enthusiastic students.