VAUXHALL’S Ellesmere Port plant enters 2008 looking green, feeling lean and aiming to stay ahead of the opposition.
In his New Year message to employees in internal magazine Vauxhall Mirror, plant director Tom Schmidt says people at the North Road factory were particularly excited last September when the Astra, which they build, became Europe’s best seller in its segment.
During last year Vauxhall as a whole powered its way to become the UK’s number one in sales on four occasions.
And Mr Schmidt recalls with pride that last April the plant was one of three in General Motors across Europe chosen to produce the successor to the Astra – known as the Global Compact Vehicle – and due to hit the road in 2010.
He says: “This was a great reflection on the dedication and hard work of the men and women at the plant.”
Mr Schmidt stresses that safety remains an “overriding priority” and last March the plant passed the milestone of working 10 million hours without any significant injury.
This was a first for any manufacturing facility in the UK and, as a result, Ellesmere Port is viewed as a benchmark organisation by the Health and Safety Executive.
Mr Schmidt also talks of “improved communication channels” with trade unions at the plant and a feeling of “value and motivation” among workers.
He says that the time it takes to assemble each vehicle had been cut by 10% since the previous year, with continuing efficiency improvements being made.
There had also been a 32% reduction in energy usage, which led to Vauxhall becoming the first motor manufacturer to achieve the Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme award.
Mr Schmidt sums up: “The plant has made tremendous progress over the past 12 months and moving forward we will continue to achieve our objectives as we continue to build high- quality, low-cost vehicles.”
Another article in Vauxhall Mirror reports that it’s “all systems go” for the introduction of the Astra’s replacement in two years.
Although the new model is also to be built at GM factories in Germany and Sweden, it is Ellesmere Port that has been chosen as lead plant for the project, which has an overall cost of 3.1 billion euros.
Explaining how preparations for the car are “progressing rapidly”, planning team leader Lindsey Wickens says: “There’s a very steep learning curve to come but we’re clearly ahead of the game.”