Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK

Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK
Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd.
Type Subsidiary
Industry Automotive
Founded 1984
Headquarters Washington, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom
Products Automobiles
Parent Nissan Motors
Website Nissan UK

Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd, or NMUK is a car manufacturing plant in Washington, Tyne and Wear, United Kingdom. It is owned and operated by the European division of Japanese car manufacturer Nissan. It is the largest car plant in the United Kingdom, and the most productive in Europe. It has been active since 1986.



NMUK is located in the Washington area of Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, in North East England, at the junction of the A19 and A1231 Sunderland Highway trunk roads. The factory is adjacent to the UK Nissan Distribution Centre (NDS) and has a number of on-site suppliers. The landscaped NMUK site incorporates conservation areas, such as ponds, lakes and woodland, and currently has 10 onsite wind turbines, producing up to 10% of the energy required for the plant. The site is located 5 miles from Port of Tyne where international distribution is based.


In February 1984, Nissan and the Government signed an agreement to build a car plant in the UK. The following month, a 799-acre (3.23 km2) greenfield site in Washington, Tyne and Wear, was chosen. As an incentive, the land was offered to Nissan at agricultural prices; around £1,800 per acre. The North East region of England had recently undergone a period of industrial decline, with the closure of most of the shipyards on the Tyne and Wear, and the closure of many coal mines on the once prosperous Durham coalfield. The high unemployment this caused meant Nissan had a large, eager, manufacturing-skilled workforce to draw upon. The site, once the Sunderland Airfield (formerly RAF Usworth), was close to large ports on the Tyne and Tees, within easy driving distance of the international Newcastle Airport, and close to major trunk roads such as the A1 and A19. The established company became known as Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd, or NMUK. A ground breaking ceremony took place in July, and work began on the site in November 1984, by building contractors Sir Robert McAlpine.

One of Nissan's more controversial demands during the talks was that the plant be single-union. This was unprecedented in UK industry. In April 1985, an agreement was reached with the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU). Critics argue that this means the plant workforce is weakly represented. Nissan argues that as a result of the single-union agreement, its workforce is much more flexible than at other plants, and it points to the fact that not a single minute has been lost to industrial disputes at the factory.

In December 1985, McAlpine handed over the completed factory building to Nissan for the installation of machinery and factory components, ahead of schedule. Phase 1 of the plant construction was completed in July 1986, consisting of a Body, Paint and Final Assembly Line. The first Bluebird was produced shortly after and is on display at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. Official opening of the plant by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Nissan President Yutaka Kume took place in September 1986. By February 1987, NMUK had become the sole supplier of the Bluebird model to the UK market, and work on phase 2 of the plant began, with Plastics moulding and Engine assembly beginning in 1988, and was completed in May 1990. This would prove to be a landmark year for the plant, with the introduction of the P10 Primera, the first model to be wholly built at NMUK, replacing the Bluebird. By 1991, the plant turned its first profit of £18.4 million, and was awarded 'British Manufacturer' status by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). By 1992, the plant began to produce two models, with the introduction of the highly successful Micra, which was the first Nissan to be voted "European Car of the Year.

The Early 2000's was a period of growth for the plant, with the plant being awarded contracts to build the updated Almera, becoming a three-model plant, and continuation of the Micra and Primera model changes. A fourth body style for the plant was introduced with the Micra C+C. 2006 saw the introduction of the Note model, in place of the Almera, and the introduction of the Qashqai. At this point, NMUK had built a reputation for being the most efficient plant in Europe.

By 2008, the falling sales of the Primera led to its demise, with the Qashqai becoming the hero model for the plant, with such a high demand that a night shift was introduced to keep up. The Qashqai also had the distinction of being the first model built at NMUK to be exported to the Japanese market, although heavy European demand later required Japanese market models be moved to the Kyushu plant. Nearly 5,000 workers were employed at the plant by this stage; however 1,200 of them were made redundant in January 2009 as a result on the onset of the recession which saw demand for new cars slump.[1]

Despite a temporary suspension of the third shift due to the automotive industry crisis of 2008, the third shift was reintroduced, and the strong demand for the Qashqai has helped NMUK remain strong throughout the crisis.

After the crisis, Nissan announced that the new Juke model would be built starting in July 2010, replacing the Micra and that NMUK would be the European manufacturing location for the Electric Vehicle Leaf model beginning in 2011, as well as an on-site lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility.


Plant functions

The plant from the South.

NMUK is split into three logical areas: Body Assembly, Paint and Final Assembly. Each is further broken down into areas known as 'shops'.

Press Shop

The first shop in the manufacturing process, the Press Shop is responsible for pressing the outer and inner body panels of the vehicle. NMUK houses a 5,000 tonne press capable of pressing two panels simultaneously - one of only two in use in any Nissan plant.

Body Shop

Linked directly to the Press Shop, the Body Shop is a highly-automated section of the factory with over 500 robots in operation. Pressed-panels are welded together to create complete body shells.

Paint Shop

Body shells are painted in a semi-clean environment using solvent based. Shells are dipped in chemical tanks to cleanse them of any oils picked up on the panels during their manufacture in Body Shop. Once bodies have been dipped and cleansed, they are then immersed in an anti-corrosion paint dip called ED (Electrocoat Dip). This 'dip' coats the entire body, both inside and outside, and is the first paint coating it will receive. Once the 'dipped' body has been stoved in the ED oven, the body progresses to the 'Sealing' Booth. In this booth, the body has its interior panel joints, floor, tailgate, hood and door edges sealed with a PVC based sealant, to prevent water ingress and corrosion as the car is driven on the road. Also within this zone, sound pads are added to the floor and boot to reduce road noise (standard practice in the motor industry). The next booth it enters is the 'Underbody' Booth. In this booth, similar to 'Sealing' Booth, the body's wheel arches are sealed using the same PVC based sealant. Robots then apply the underseal to the underfloor and wheel arches. Also robots are used to apply the SGC (Stone Guard Coat) layer to the sills: this coating is designed for abrasion resistance, i.e. preventing stone chips, scuffs, etc. From here, the body proceeds into the Undercoat Oven. The next zone is 'ED Sanding' booth where the body is inspected for any minor imperfections received in the ED Coat. The next zone is the 'Surfacer' Booth, where the body receives its second coat of paint, this being the Surfacer Coat, then into the Surfacer Oven. Next is 'Surfacer Sanding' Booth: the same as ED Sanding, this zone inspects the body for any imperfections picked up within the Surfacer coating. Next comes the 'Topcoat' Booth, where the body receives its final coats of paint, these being Topcoat and Clearcoat layers. After being stoved in the Topcoat oven, the body then enters the 'Touch-up' Booth where the body has its final inspection for any imperfections picked up in the Topcoat process. Once the body leaves here, it then moves on to the PBS (Painted Body Store) above Trim and Chassis to await the next step in the production process.

Plastics Shop

Plastic components such as bumpers are injection-moulded on site.

Casting Shop

Aluminium engine components such as cylinder heads are produced in the state-of-the-art Casting plant.

Unit Shop

1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 litre petrol engines are built on-site on the Unit Assembly line. The cylinder heads are machined along the machining line before being shipped to the Assembly line. The Unit Shop contains its own engine testing areas. Diesel engines are no longer produced at NMUK.

Axle Shop

A second welding facility costing over £5m is currently being built to ease demand on the Axle Shop for Qashqai.

Trim & Chassis

There are two parallel assembly lines in NMUK: Line 2 currently handles the Juke and Note; Line 1 handles the Qashqai. Painted bodies are stored in a large holding area called PBS (Painted Body Store), and are released in a specific scheduled sequence. They are brought into Trim & Chassis on suspended cradles. Each body moves through the assembly line and is fitted with interior (Trim), and exterior (Chassis) components. At one point in the process, the bodies are 'married' to a sub-assembled engine and subframe. Completed vehicles are sent down a Final Line, where all aspects of the car, from brakes to waterproofing, are tested. The car is then driven off-line to a holding area, ready to be distributed to a dealer.


Although the plant is made up primarily of manufacturing areas, there is also a large office complex, housing supporting functions including: Personnel, Community Relations, Production Control, Engineering, Finance, Purchasing and Information Systems. Some of these support functions, including Purchasing, Finance and Information Systems are not just responsible for NMUK but for Nissan Europe as well. During a company restructuring exercise in 2003, large parts of the Purchasing department were relocated to Cranfield. This angered many in the plant, but widespread industrial action was avoided. In 2005, parts of the Finance department were relocated to Budapest in Hungary. In both instances, NMUK adopted a policy of finding new jobs in other departments for those who did not want to relocate.

Information technology

NMUK relies heavily on Information Technology to function. Computer-controlled robots and other machinery, particularly in the Body Shop, are vital to production. These machines are maintained and controlled by specialist engineering teams. Other functions, such as the complex scheduling of vehicles, parts control and ordering, vehicle tracking, etc. are managed by software written in-house. Most of the software resides on an IBM Mainframe. This Mainframe is not just responsible for NMUK; it controls business functions across the Europe region, including NMUK's sister plant, NMISA, based in Barcelona, Spain. The Mainframe is located within the European Data Centre (EDC), which, as well as housing and maintaining the Mainframe and over 50 PC servers, acts as a European helpdesk.

Workforce and productivity

NMUK is one of the most productive car plants in Europe, producing more 'cars per man' than any other factory. There are 4,500 staff directly employed by NMUK, and approximately 500 contracted, indirect staff. Employees at NMUK work a standard 39 hour week. While Office staff work on a fixed 'Day shift' basis, manufacturing staff work alternating morning and evening shifts. Morning shifts run from approximately 7am to 3pm. Evening shifts run from approximately 4pm to midnight. Shift times can vary depending on requirements. When required, overtime is worked, although it balanced out during the year with planned downtime.

A '3-shift' system has been introduced at times of high demand, meaning that the factory is active 24 hours a day. This is something that is only introduced if NMUK officials can be sure demand is high enough. Line 1 ran three shift production from August 2008 to the start of January 2009 to meet unprecedented demand for the Qashquai, however due to the credit crunch and falling orders the third shift was suspended and people released by voluntary redundancy.

Although staff have been accommodating to all management changes in working practices, they have seen a steady decline in benefits over the years this has not been reflected in the wages[citation needed]. A 2% increase was offered to staff in 2007, with a further 2% the following year. This is a reflection of the state of the motor industry and manufacturing in general in the UK. The proliferation of low cost countries (Eastern Europe, China and India) is fueling a migration of manufacturing from the UK[citation needed]. In response to this, UK manufacturers are having to cut costs in order to survive in an increasingly competitive world market. The pay negotiations were suspended for 2009/10 due to the instability in the world markets, effectively meaning there has been no pay award agreed.

Staff at NMUK use a number of methods to ensure productivity remains high. Three of the main ones are Kaizen, Just in Time and Job Rotation.

In July 2011, Nissan announced that it would be recruiting a further 200 jobs at the plant to deal with "record" levels of production.[2]


Is a Japanese word meaning 'Continuous Improvement'. NMUK encourages all of its workforce to seek out areas in which improvements in their working environment, no matter how small, can be made. For example, a line-worker may have to bend down to pick a part out of a box as each vehicle goes past. This could have health and safety implications, as well as wasting time. Kaizen teams would then investigate, and possibly introduce a method in which the box is stored at an optimum height, within easy reach of the line-worker. Kaizen teams are based in every department. The emphasis is on small, manageable improvements, although large Kaizen projects have been undertaken, e.g. platforms that follow the vehicle down the line to prevent workers from having to walk alongside it while working.

Just in Time (JIT)

The JIT philosophy, encourages the use of the minimum amount of resources (e.g. space, time, material, workers) necessary to add value to a product. NMUK uses this management technique throughout the factory and beyond. Synchronous Suppliers deliver parts line-side only when they are required, therefore reducing the need to store large supplies of parts at great cost.

Job rotation

In order to keep the workforce flexible, NMUK operates a policy of '1 man -> 3 jobs, 3 men -> 1 job'. In other words, a worker should be competent in at least three different jobs, and at least three people should be capable of doing each job. This principle ensures that each job can be covered in the case of absence. It also means that jobs can be regularly rotated to prevent a worker from becoming bored in a particular role.


In accordance with its Investors in People responsibilities, NMUK has a strong Training department and offers a wide range of on and off the job training. The Flexible Learning Centre established on-site is open to all staff and allows them to take part in over 300 courses.

Technical on-the-job training is available to all staff, and most of the courses are given on-site by qualified trainers. People-Development courses (e.g. Presentation Skills) are also provided. NMUK spends more per head on staff-development than the British industry average.

NMUK has a Continuous Development Programme (CDP) whereby staff are given personal and professional objectives every year, and are appraised against the objects. This Appraisal is linked to pay increases. This is also an opportunity for staff to identify where further training may be appropriate.

External links


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]

Coordinates: 54°55.2209′N 1°28.14239′W / 54.9203483°N 1.46903983°W / 54.9203483; -1.46903983

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