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Factory tour report

  #1  
Old 03-04-2009, 11:25 AM
OldLoad
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Factory tour report

Spent this past Tuesday morning doing the MINI factory tour; most interesting. It has to be scheduled and costs £12 (about $17.00 with the current exchange rate). There aren't any weekend tours with those shifts cancelled for now.
You get there, exchange your coat for a MINI lab-coat (but don't get to keep it ), then see a DVD on the MINI plants in the UK and who does what. The tour guides are retired MINI managers and pretty entertaining. The body shop uses lots of robots to assemble all the bits into a MINI, Clubman or the new Cabrio, coming soon to a dealer near you. It's pretty noisy but watching the robots take parts off a pallet and attach it to the frame and then weld it looks like a 21st century "Fantasia." The robots do almost all the work, with the 200 or so folks just feeding the parts and checking to make sure everything is going according to plan. The bodies are assembled in seemingly random order, then sent to the paint shop which you can't see for health & safety reasons.

The cars enter the assembly plant in all their colors (don't think much of the new yellow) then go up one line and down another with someone (or several people) adding something every stop until the completed cars roll off the line, about 1 every minute. Since each car has been custom ordered, they say it's almost impossible for two identical cars to come off the line on any given day. The suppliers deliver seats, dashboards, etc, customized as ordered and set up in sequence to match the bodies; every component or assembly is bar-coded and continually checked so the guy who orders a JCW with everything doesn't get a diesel engine installed by accident. Another line builds up the engines and that line then joins the car line, followed by the front ends, wheels, etc. Not too many robots here; the windscreen installer is one of the few, but much more "hands on" with people taking all the various bits and turning it into a completed car. It's pretty cool to watch.

Kind of surprised there wasn't a factory store at the end of the tour wanting to sell you all kind of goodies; must be some kind of non-compete agreement with their vendors

Well worth the visit
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:39 AM
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Thanks! Nice report I assume cameras are forbidden.
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:41 AM
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Thanks for the report, sounds very interesting, something I too, would like to do...

Bravo
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:47 AM
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Cameras are indeed forbidden inside the plant. I had plans to go to MINI UNITED this year, but instead we decided to go to Alaska on vacation instead.

Perhaps we'll go back to Europe next year and do the factory tour.
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for the report, OldLoad - very interesting!
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 12:39 PM
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Originally Posted by OldLoad View Post
Kind of surprised there wasn't a factory store at the end of the tour wanting to sell you all kind of goodies; must be some kind of non-compete agreement with their vendors
When we went on the tour a few years back (before the expansion) there was store at the end. I would be willing to bet that either because of expansion or layoffs it doesn't exist anymore.
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 01:09 PM
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If you have watches, bracelets, rings, etc either you have to remove them from your hands or they have to be covered in tape.
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 02:43 PM
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Its a fun tour. We did it in 04, while our MINI was waiting for us at the dealer.
 
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Old 03-04-2009, 06:32 PM
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I did the tour in 2004 (Sept) as well . No cameras inside the plant, however in the gathering area they had the Austin Powers MINI from Goldmember and the 3 MINIs from The Italian Job and I was able to snap a bunch of pics.

More interesting though, was the "secret room" next to the main entrance that had a bunch of prototypes/test cars and end-of-the-line classic Minis that were unsold/untitled/undriven brand new that were just sitting there under plastic tarps............................................. ..............
 
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Old 03-06-2009, 06:40 PM
Mini Fireman
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When did they add a fee for this? It was free when we did it a couple of years ago.
 
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Old 03-06-2009, 08:38 PM
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It was about £3 when we went in 2004.
 
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Old 03-07-2009, 08:04 AM
lilcoopr
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I went in 2007 prior to my trip to MINI United 07. It was free for me because I work at MINI - so that was really appreciated - but it was totally worth it and I would have paid for it, or paid even more for the experience.

My tourguide's name was Terry, such a charming, elderly man. I hope he's still there when I go back this year!

What's really cool are those buses that they use to transport you to the other part of the tour... They are old Austin ones!!
 
  #13  
Old 03-07-2009, 11:50 AM
OldLoad
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Originally Posted by Mini Fireman View Post
When did they add a fee for this? It was free when we did it a couple of years ago.
Not sure when; they said it went to a children's charity.
 
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Old 03-09-2009, 09:43 AM
lilcoopr
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Originally Posted by OldLoad View Post
Not sure when; they said it went to a children's charity.
Yep!
 

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