In British parlance, the X-Type is a "compact sports saloon." The sedan will be available in the U.S. in two models: 2.5- and 3.0-liter versions.
When Ford took Jaguar over in late 1989 it found a catalog of disasters. While a Jaguar built in the 1980s was certainly better than one made 10 years earlier, when the company was a part of the ill-starred British Leyland group Ford found that it was still a very long way off its standards. It literally took years and a huge amount of resources to bring Jaguar manufacturing processes and quality control procedures up to an acceptable level. It was therefore quite ironic that when Jaguar personnel first moved into a Ford plant three years ago, they were taking over to build the forthcoming X-Type that they found a factory low in self-esteem, high in despair and a long way off Ford's own world-class manufacturing practices.
The Haleswood plant was the sole facility making Escorts and had been passed over when the Focus came along. As a result, many thought that it was ultimately the end of the line for this factory located in northwest England. There was talk that it might build a niche model based on the Focus platform, but deep in people's hearts it was felt that when Escort production finished in the summer of 2000 that it would be closed down. The news that it was going to become a Jaguar plant was met with some disbelief.
The job of transforming the slightly rundown Ford plant was given to David Hudson, a 20-year Jaguar veteran, previously Director of Product Operations for Jaguar's two plants in the West Midlands of England. He headed a small path-finding team that came to Haleswood some 2-1/2-years before Escort production ended to assess just what needed to be done. On his arrival he found a catalog of problems.
What Was Needed. "We had to get rid of outmoded practices and persuade people to adopt more flexible working patterns, with the emphasis on delivering quality," says Hudson. "Even more fundamentally, we had to get the workforce on-side. We also had to overcome some understandable skeptism and convince them that we were serious about delivering change. Then the investment that the plant needed would follow."
All this involved a massive investment program in the workforce from the publication of a "green book," which set out the operating principles required to move the business forward and given to every employee, to a massive training program for the entire workforce. This concentrated on increasing skill levels and developing more effective new processes, backed up with a program to generate a more open and a participative working environment to eradicate the "them-and-us" culture that was endemic in the plant. And in order to experience Jaguar culture first hand, some 500 line operators and supervisors spent time at Jaguar's other plants.
Two imperatives drove this comprehensive program. One was the elevation of quality standards to match the levels of excellence in Jaguar's other plants; the other was the production of cars in a highly efficient manner by using the latest "lean manufacturing" techniques, within a safe working environment.
The Approach. Using the Ford Production System (FPS) as the basis, Hudson and his team introduced a three-pronged approach to support X-Type production. One was Quality, to bring Jaguar's proven standards to Halewood; another was the Centers of Excellence concept, so that FPS disciplines could be developed in a gradual way throughout the plant; the third was Cultural Change, to build fresh working relationships based on respect and trust.
A stable production process was established eliminating variability and ensuring consistency across shifts and the line operators were given responsibility for continuously improving standards while being organized into smaller groups of just six or seven people, half the previous size.
Another key FPS enabler quickly identified as a priority was a formal visual inspection process, called Standardised Inspection Points (SIPs), which establishes a thorough checking and logging routine to help identify and then eliminate the causes of quality failures. This system proved so successful that it is being adopted throughout Ford. Altogether, there were several manufacturing initiatives and new disciplines put into place at Halewood, all coordinated from an FPS Center—known as the "war room"—alongside the shop floor.
Another major quality-driven innovation for Halewood was the introduction of the "Andon" system, which gives the operator new levels of control and responsibility over his or her part of the manufacturing process. Andon cords are used throughout body construction and the trim and final line and in parts of the press shop and paint shop. Buffers of six to eight cars are built in at various stages along the production process so an Andon stoppage in any one place does not immediately affect the whole plant. Daily production targets allow for a certain level of downtime resulting from the Andon calls, which are all monitored centrally by another system called "Posmon," to help identify and resolve recurring issues, as part of the continuous improvement process.
"It's a lesson we learned in the early 1990s at Jaguar," says Hudson. "It's not new. You can't try to catch problems at the end of the line anymore. That doesn't work. A problem has to be put right at source. Fixing the car is never the solution; you need to understand the root cause to prevent it from happening again."
Improvement Activity. The Centers of Excellence concept was one where manufacturing improvements could be made within smaller areas through close co-operation and teamwork before being rolled out across larger areas until all the Centers of Excellence linked together and standards across the whole plant were transformed. By the time the last Escort came off the line in July 2000, the concept had extended throughout the plant from the five Centers of Excellence that were initially established 16 months beforehand.
Each work group involved took responsibility for generating improvements through a specified series of actions, including standardised work processes, improvements to component delivery at line-side, a "right first time" approach and a "best-in-class" vision for general housekeeping. One immediate result was the disappearance of the line-side cardboard cities as new racking and packaging—some designed by the operators themselves–were introduced to improve delivery to the production lines and to ease component picking.
The third prong in Hudson's game plan was the Culture Change. With support from Senn Delaney Leadership, a world leading consultancy firm on culture change, problem areas were identified by talking with all levels of the workforce so that a program could be drawn up to address them. The result was something called the "Halewood Difference", a series of two-day workshops for 30 to 35 people at a time, starting with the new senior management team before cascading throughout the rest of the plant, to help change attitudes. By the summer of 2000, all 3,000 employees had been through the workshops.
"This massive culture change was largely driven from within by Halewood people, and that's what made the program a major success," says Hudson. "The plant is a very
different place now to the one I first joined in 1998. The two-day course proved a highly effective catalyst for change, with people taking lessons back to use in their daily working lives, and it gave us solid foundations in which to continue to build."
Every initiative at
Halewood had some part in bringing established Jaguar quality standards into the plant with the result that quality standards during the last two years of Escort manufacture were relentlessly driven upwards.
"By the time production ended, defect rates had been halved and Halewood was producing the best quality Escorts ever," says Hudson. "That improvement was entirely down to the people here because it was achieved before the major investment in plant and equipment. For the final Escorts off the line, the workforce was already very close to matching Jaguar standards, and we still had six months and further training programs in place to close the final gap. Everyone was determined to build the X-Type with real Jaguar quality from day one."
The Workforce Delivers. So despite the huge improvements that had been made at Halewood, the re-educating process did not stop and in fact stepped up a gear when Escort production stopped. Immediately after the summer shutdown, the first 800 people attended two local colleges for 10 days covering a range of topics. There was another two-day Senn Delaney workshop, taking forward the "Halewood Difference" program but bringing in items on Jaguar's heritage and products, safety and environmental issues, diversity and healthy living. A week was devoted to lean manufacturing principles led by plant supervisors specially trained for the task, while
other areas included painting and general cleaning and working on local community projects.
"In almost every aspect, we have tried to train the workforce in their team environment, so the team that will work together has been trained together," says Hudson. "That approach has given us an amazing step forward–they become like families and have developed a relationship among themselves. Giving people responsibility for processes has had a quicker effect here than it did in our Midlands plants. We have been disciplined in rolling it out, and the workforce has delivered."
The Haleswood plant had been producing the Escort, a model that was replaced by the Focus. Although it seemed as though the plant would be shut down, it was, instead, transformed—physically and culturally—for the production of the X-Type.