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    NAA Event Review: Members networking meeting, Vauxhall plant, Ellesmere Port, 17 April 2012

    The members’ networking meeting at Ellesmere Port’s Vauxhall plant was again very well attended, and it provided a fascinating insight into both the history of the factory and the challenges it has faced, and after a period of uncertainty the future of the plant has been secured.

    NAA members enjoyed a guided tour of the factory, together with presentations about key developments from the site’s management team.

    The Ellesmere Port plant was established in 1962. By 1963 it was producing the Vauxhall Viva, and it built the Chevette in the 1970’s. Production of the first generation Astra started in the ‘80’s producing all Astra models as a consequence. Today the plant is proud to be the ‘Home of the Astra’, and after 29 years of Astra build, the plant became the sole producer of the Astra Sports Tourer in 2010. July 2011 saw the plant celebrate the 100,000 unit milestone after less than a year in production. In the 1970’s, the factory had 14,000 employees and the production rate was just 8 cars an hour. Today the plant employs approximately 2,100 staff and is capable of building over 200,000 vehicles per year. This year, the plant will celebrate its 50th Anniversary.

    Many of the presentations were focused on ways to increase efficiencies and make savings in a wide range of areas to ensure the plant’s competitiveness. Energy is one of the items under the spotlight, and NAA member company Optimised Energy Solutions has been working successfully with Vauxhall to achieve impressive cost savings. Its Miraclees software ranks the potential benefits and savings of different ideas against each other. This work to reduce energy costs will ultimately translate to a lower energy input per vehicle, a critical issue for the industry.

    There was also a presentation about Vauxhall’s undergraduate community project, which was doing an excellent job raising awareness with 10-18 year olds about the career opportunities in automotive manufacturing. One of the project’s exercises is a simulated car production game, this aims on getting the pupils to think about all the key elements of a business (, logistics, human resources etc) and compete against other groups to operate successively and competitively. This programme is just one of the initiatives that the company has developed with the workforce to support the local communities. More recently, Vauxhall was awarded ‘Britain’s 4th highest ranked Top Employer for 2012’ for its outstanding employee engagement.

    To add to its overall success, the plant announced this year in May that it had been allocated production of the all new Astra starting build in 2015 as the lead plant. The company intends to invest £125 million to upgrade the plant to world class standards and circa 700 new jobs will be created to support a move to 3-shift working. This will be of great significance to the local Community where Vauxhall is already a major employer. Vauxhall will also raise the local supply content for the all new Astra to at least 25% which will create further employment locally and in the UK overall and further increase the plant’s competitiveness.

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham