Jaguar Factory Tour at Castle Bromwich
GCA visit Jaguar factory May 2011…
…if only dreams did come true.
What, you imagine, can the link be between WW2 Spitfires and Lancaster aircraft and 21st Century high performance cars. The answer is of course Jaguar and their Castle Bromwich factory. Not that there are any fighter planes being manufactured there today, or at least none that we were allowed to see!
The GCA tour of the Jaguar production facility on the 18th May was attended by a good cross section of the members both old and new, along with their guests. The day commenced with a slick presentation on the Jaguar brand, ethos and ambition which left us all in no doubt that we deserved to be driving one of these cars – we owed it to ourselves and our family, friends, colleagues, and even the milkman if that’s what it needed to justify the decision. You get the picture, it was indulgent, overwhelming and persuasive.
The attendees were then split for the main tour of the production lines and each group was allocated to a guide all of whom seemed to be true enthusiasts, and who’s passion for Jaguar seemed to be both engrained and infectious.
Our tour commenced with the body assembly line where we were fortunate enough to witness one of those great truths of running a highly automated and technically advanced operation where robots prevail over mass labour. Sometimes they are temperamental and decide to just stop, and more importantly getting the maintenance engineer to push the reset button doesn’t always work!
Not daunted by this minor hiccup our tour guide regaled us with information on the precision work undertaken in this section of the plant, entertained us with anecdotes on its history and calmly led us on.
Having previously toured a number of automotive production facilities there are always parallels in the structure and layout. What appeared different to me at Castle Bromwich was the expertise demonstrated across many of the assembly line operations. From the individual who built the battery unit, attaching some eleven cables and receiving a round of applause from the group. The team visually inspecting the body work of every chassis before painting to ensure the lines were perfect who smiled politely to our comments that ‘he’d missed a bit’. To the passion and precision of the finishing team undertaking final adjustments on vehicles.
What I should mention at this point, and bear with me it is pertinent, is the high tech communication system used on the tour. Each individual was given a headset at the start so that the tour guide could talk to us all without being drowned out by the plant noise. Unfortunately this intermittently led to situations, particularly with our group, where our guide proceeded with the tour, talking and walking, whilst the group stopped to witness some particularly interesting facet of the production process, and as a result we repeatedly found ourselves without a guide, who had moved along the assembly line, around the corner and on one occasion through a door into a completely different part of the building. Lessons on crowd control to be learnt I think.
You have to admire any company which can deliver such consistently high standards in design, manufacture and employee satisfaction however there was one shock and disappointment on the horizon, and one from which many of us on the tour may find it hard to recover.
We had witnessed these beautiful vehicles evolving along the line, waited patiently to see the body be attached to the suspension, Trevor Ford had even picked the colour and model of his next vehicle, and we believed we were reaching the pinnacle of the tour in the finishing department.
Here at the end of the assembly process a team of highly skilled professional young men and women were making final adjustments to cars, making sure they exceeded the high set by Jaguar and their clientele. The tour group admired the hand craft skills of one young individual whom we were assured had many years’ experience, some may have craved the opportunity to be where he was and to master the skills he so effortlessly flaunted. You can therefore only imagine our shock, horror and distress as he, with no warning, vigorously set about re-aligning the hood storage cover with a rubber mallet. For such a beautiful car to be abused in such a way! We moved on quickly and quietly.
At the end of the tour we were returned to the sumptuous reception and meeting area where we were able to take a closer look at several Jaguars before a light buffet networkinglunch.
Many of us can only dream of owning one of these luxurious rulers of the road. Keith Payne looked very much at home in the XJ, a car that had clearly been designed with him in mind, Dean Barrett was heard to comment that this would definitely be his next company car, whilst Lyn Weichardt was witnessed negotiating ferociously and handing over cash for her luxury vehicle (albeit a scale model of the real thing).
As always on a GCA event the emphasis is very much on meeting colleagues both old and new in a friendly relaxed environment and to this end we enjoyed an excellent buffet lunch before finally taking our leave.
I am sure I can say that everyone enjoyed the opportunity afforded us within the day and the company of our Association colleagues. I personally look forward to these events and would encourage everyone to take advantage of these opportunities where you can. It’s only by attending that you find out their real value.
We hope the GCA can continue to offer a varied programme and I look forward to seeing everyone at the next event.
MacLellan Rubber Limited