HALEWOOD, UK - Jaguar's takeover of Ford's Halewood assembly plant will start with a comprehensive worker re-training program.
Managers and workers will need new skills to switch from producing Ford Escorts to Jaguar X400 sedans, said David Hudson, the plant's new operations manager.
Hudson was previously production operations director of Jaguar's Browns Lane plant.
The plant switches to Jaguar production in 2001. The X400 will compete with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 series.
Planned production is 100,000 units annually, compared with Halewood's current output of 140,000 Escorts a year.
'Over the next few months we will put in place a multi-function transition team,' said Hudson. 'We will have a member from each of the main functions within Jaguar, including engineering, manufacturing, finance and public relations. They will see how their function operates at Halewood compared with Jaguar.'
A training program will then be designed based on the findings.
Hudson said many processes are similar, but Jaguar has special processes because it makes premium-price cars.
The additional Jaguar processes will be integrated.
Jerry Murphy, Halewood's previous operations manager, will stay on alongside Hudson for a changeover period.
'We will have a customer Halewood has not dealt with before,' he said. 'We have to make sure we understand their expectations and satisfy them.
The new training program will be conducted both at Halewood and at Browns Lane, said Murphy.
'We've already started some cross-training with managers,' he said. 'There's a mixture of two cultures here and we will have to get through that.
'We will conduct an exchange of upper managers, middle managers and group leaders. That's how we will homogenize the process.'
The versatility of the Halewood plant will help Jaguar. The assembly line can accommodate a variable proportion of left- and right-hand-drive cars, said Production Manager Jason Field.
'But with a new product, of course, you initially try to keep to the minimum complexity in that respect,' he said.
Field said that the X400's production cycle would be longer than the Escort's.
'But the complexity of the product will not be hugely greater,' he said. 'The Escort itself is a complex product.'
However, Jaguar will offer such features as active suspension on the X400.
The UK government offered grants worth £40 million-£50 million ($66 million-$82 million) to encourage Jaguar to choose Halewood rather than another Ford plant in Europe or the USA.