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The Triangle Swindon Case Study


Abstract:

This case is about German automobile manufacturer, the BMW Group's "MINI Production Triangle", a production network of its premium small car brand MINI. The BMW Group started production of the MINI at its Oxford plant in the UK in April 2001. In 2006, in order to further increase the existing production capacity of the MINI, the management of the BMW Group integrated its three manufacturing units in the UK and started a production triangle called the "MINI Production Triangle" (MPT). The three plants which geographically looked like three points of a triangle were the Oxford plant, the Swindon plant, and the Hams Hall plant.


Plant Oxford was responsible for the bodyshell production, paintshop, and final assembly of the MINI. The Hams Hall plant supplied petrol engines while the Swindon plant supplied pressings and sub-assemblies to Plant Oxford.

The case discusses the objectives of the MINI Production Triangle and briefly describes the MINI production process. The production of the MINI involved three steps - Bodyshell Production, Paintshop, and Assembly. Bodyshell production was carried out at Plant Oxford and included manufacturing the body of the MINI. The second step in the MPT was the paintshop where the bodyshell was painted with several coats of color. During the assembly process, the 2,415 different inner and outer parts of the MINI were mounted on to the painted bodyshell. The engines were delivered from Hams Hall just-in-sequence to the assembly line in Oxford as per the production requirements. The pressings and body components were delivered just-in-time from Swindon directly to the body production facility at the Oxford plant. The entire production process, right from the delivery of the engine components to the complete assembly of the components, took around seven days.

The case also talks about other aspects related to the MINI Production Triangle such as logistics, training and development of associates, efficient resource management, and community involvement in the MINI Production Triangle. It concludes with a description of the results achieved in terms of sales and production volumes of MINI after the implementation of the MINI Production Triangle.

Issues:

» Study the MINI production strategy adopted by the BMW Group, with special emphasis on the MINI Production Triangle set up in 2006.

» Understand the issues and challenges associated with the MINI production process.

» Examine the role of the three production plants in the MINI Production Triangle.

» Understand concepts such as Just-in-time and Just-in-sequence, and their importance.

» Analyze the significance of integrating manufacturing plants in automobile production to improve productivity and enable customization.

Contents:

Keywords:

MINI Production Triangle, Lean manufacturing, Flexible manufacturing system, logistics, Just In Time, Just In Sequence, Customer Oriented Sales and Production Process, KOVP, Plant Swindon, Assembly, Bodyshell production, Paintshop, Plant Hams Hall, Pressings, Sub-assemblies, Production management, MINI, UK-based supply industry, UK Automotive Industry, Plant Oxford, Plant Swindon, Plant Hams Hall

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This piece by Rowan Moore in the Observer on Kevin McCloud’s Triangle in Swindon piqued my interest in the development again. Hattie has already done a great piece in the AJ with lots of lovely numbers in:

Annual co2 emissions 11.85kg/m2
U-value of walls 0.19W/m2K
U-value of glazing 1.3W/m2K
Airtightness at 50pa 5m3/m2.hr
Daylight factor habitable rooms 2% minimum

Very commendable. A couple of things intrigued me about the development. Firstly – why so inward looking?

Clustering around the ‘triangle’ it looks very insular which I’d always found a bit odd in the photos I’d seen. Turns out there’s a good reason. Here’s the Google map view (taken before the development)

The triangle is the odd shaped infill

Makes much more sense to me now, and also explains why the gabion walls screening the cars exist – there was no opportunity to put the cars anywhere else and whilst they needed to be overlooked from the houses, would have become dominent and detracted from the Triangle if they hadn’t been screened. Now that mystery is cleared up, another point in Rowan’s piece intrigued me:

It is about little things achieved within the standard budget for housing association developments – apart from a little additional support for some of the more adventurous environmental features.

What were these adventurous features? The article implies that it might be the swales and landscaping which added to the cost. I then wondered aloud on Twitter if the scheme was HCA funded and if so what Code for Sustainable Homes level it was? Quickly, the answer came back – yes, and CSH4*. Which then lead me to wonder more questions:

  • were there any CSH mandated features which the team wouldn’t have done given the choice?
  • was there anything they wanted to do but budget constraints in meeting mandated CSH4* features prevented them?
  • without the extra budget for the ‘adventurous’ features what CSH level would have been achieved?

Rowan doesn’t mention the Code at all in his piece – outside the pages of the industry press it is virtually unknown (ask your friends, parents, hairdresser, dentist if they’ve heard of it – if they have let me know!). Hattie reckons some of the houses would have been CSH5* with the addition of PV (and orientation isn’t too bad – only the E/W facing block would have been totally unsuitable), but again, it’s not clear if this is CSH5* on ENE1 only, or in fact a score of 84 points (compared to 68 points for CSH4*).

If anyone knows the answers to any of my questions, let me know. I’ve dug around on the internet and as usual (with the exception of Hattie’s piece) there is a dirth of hard facts and figures…