Victor Harman puts Toyota manufacturing in the UK forward as some of the Best of British
Driving past on the A50, the signs to Toyota’s Burnaston factory gives few clues to its size and significance to the local and UK economy. Toyota’s largest production site in Europe, Burnaston is the result of a £1.15 billion of investment on a 580 acre green field site, with another £100 million promised only recently to finance production of the Auris’s successor, creating over 1,000 more local jobs. In June 2010 it made its three millionth UK car, an Auris hatchback, since production first started back in 1992. As the global centre for all Avensis production, it has built all three generations of Avensis, and currently exports around 750 of them every month back to Japan, whilst around 70 per cent of Burnaston production is sold to mainland Europe, boosting the UK’s trade balance of over £500 million a year. Employing around 4,000 local people, Burnaston is one of Toyota’s five standard-bearing worldwide ‘eco-factories’ and, along with the Avensis and Auris, it’s the production centre for the Auris Hybrid, the first volume production hybrid to be built in Europe. Plastic moulding, body pressing, body assembly (with numerous robotic welding rigs) and painting are all carried out on site as well as final assembly. Many engines fitted come from Toyota’s other UK factory at Deeside in North Wales, a £700 million factory where production of Yaris D-4D diesel engines commenced back in 2002. The petrol engine of the new Auris hybrid is manufactured there too, with all the aluminium casting, machining, assembly and engine testing carried out at Deeside by Toyota staff. As well as building the new Auris Hybrid power unit, Deeside supplies Toyota’s 1.6-litre Valvematic petrol engine for the Avensis, and to many other European production locations.
Toyota has many sound philosophies behind the way it operates: it demands loyalty and commitment from workers in return for regular pay rises, generous pension plans, pleasant working environments, and an enviable safety record.
When it came to Burnaston, eight miles from Derby, Toyota was attracted by good communication links and an engineering tradition based on companies like Rolls Royce, British Rail, and Qualcast. It was able to recruit staff with existing skills and high levels of productivity, and yet UK labour costs were then also competitively low. Toyota has many sound philosophies behind the way it operates: it demands loyalty and commitment from workers in return for regular pay rises, generous pension plans, pleasant working environments, and an enviable safety record. Toyota describes its employees as ‘team members’ – a philosophy intended to make each individual feel an important part of an international company. It pushes them hard but, despite this, there are no trade unions. Inevitable disputes are discussed and resolved by staff representation on the Toyota Members’ Advisory Board. The staff accepted reductions in working hours through the tough sales years of 2009/2010 and, following some staff cuts, full working was restored in late in 2010. Then, after the terrible Japanese earthquake in March 2011, it suffered a short total closure due to the lack of components. It then ceased production on two days each week as staff agreed to limit production to half a shift on the other three days, but all were still paid in full right through May until parts supply was restored. Lost days were designated as ‘non-attendance’ days, with staff agreeing to work back the lost hours at a later date. To survive such tough times without disruptive trade disputes is something of a tribute to the Toyota system and its flexible workforce.
Toyota is the first UK car maker to achieve zero waste to landfill
Continuing investment in efficiency has reduced energy use per vehicle built by more than 70 per cent since 1993, and Toyota is the first UK car maker to achieve zero waste to landfill. Toyota won a 2011 Green Manufacturing Award from the World Trade Group, in recognition of outstanding achievements in its European operations, having already been named ‘World’s Greenest Brand’ in a survey by Interbrand earlier this year. In view of the prosperity that it has brought to the city and the region, it’s probably no surprise that in 1998 Derby the city decided to ‘twin’ with the aptly named Toyota City in Japan that is the company’s global home. Toyota’s enviable reputation for quality and owner satisfaction says much for its staff and a commitment to the highest standards. It may be Japanese owned, but the staff and the community at Burnaston realise what a huge importance it has played in the revival of an area that was flagging badly two decades back. We recognise that its people, its production facilities, and its product truly are ‘Best of British’.