Planning for quality and productivity
A Nissan case study

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Page 2: Production

Car assembly is a complex operation with many components requiring skilled assembly. For example,

That's a crude indication of what is involved. Management are particularly keen to monitor total machine-hours and total labour-hours that each vehicle requires.

So far, Nissan has invested over £2.1 billion in the Sunderland site, taking its production capacity to 500,000 vehicles per year.

Production methods must be able to produce what customers want, in the quantities customers require, at a price consumers are willing to pay, and at a cost that yields a profit to the business. That means that being efficient is vital to success.

In some industries it is possible to carry out individual job production to meet a particular customer's request e.g. a wedding dress, a birthday cake, a fitted kitchen. However, very nearly all of the world's car manufacturers mass produce standard models, with individual consumer choice being accommodated by offering various colours, interior designs, and optional extras within a limited flexible production process. People can still personalise their cars further e.g. by choosing a particular car registration or accessories.

In pursuit of high output at low average cost, car manufacturing typically uses a continuous flow production method, where sub-assemblies are brought together in a final assembly area. This is the most cost effective and efficient method of production and the speed of the final assembly line can be adjusted to match consumer demand. If demand picks up, the production line can be accelerated, within predefined limits.

At NMUK, the production flow draws on three main production shops, as well as support areas. The three main shops are:

  • body assembly
  • painting
  • final assembly.

Supporting manufacturing areas are:

  • press shop - produces panels for the vehicles
  • plastics shop - makes bumpers (fenders) on site
  • castings shop - makes engine parts e.g. cylinder heads
  • engine shop - assembles engines, installs oil, coolant fuel
  • axle plant - produces axles that are joined to engines in final assembly.

Widely different processes generate different jobs across three main broad areas.

The machinery is scheduled to work at a given level although when demand requires it; there is flexibility in regard to both the machinery and the workforce of 4,300. At the moment, with a two-shift pattern, NMUK has a total production capacity of around 360,000 units/year - a third shift can be introduced which would take production up to 500,000 units/year if and when required.

Nissan | Planning for quality and productivity