LONDON - Nissan's plant at Sunderland, UK, achieved a productivity boom last year, far outstripping its European rivals.
Its score of 98 cars per employee was one third more than in 1996, when it was also Europe's best. Last year Sunderland was more productive than most plants in Japan and all North American plants, according to the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit.
Its nearest European rival, the General Motors plant in Eisenach, Germany, raised productivity from 70 to 77 cars.
John Cushnaghan, deputy managing director of Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK Ltd., put the success down to high volumes, good workers and long-term planning.
'We have been manufacturing here for 12 years,' said Cushnaghan, 'and we always had a long-term goal to be best in class. It has taken a long time to get there. Leaps in productivity like this are not about working harder, but about doing it better.'
Nissan has benefited from improved supplier efficiency and changes in the plant, said Cushnaghan, but 'education and training is the real heart of what we are doing. Over the last 18 months we have put 1,000 people through an ongoing course in basic problem solving techniques.'
Jeff Morland is an official with the AEEU union representing Nissan workers.
'The company gets everyone involved,' he said. 'It is driving all the time for improvements. I hope the company will bear this result in mind when they consider what kind of pay rise to give.'
Productivity figures are not always comparable, said the EUI, because some plants include stamping and parts-making operations.