Prime Minister David Cameron is currently on a mission to Japan to boost trade in several areas, most prominently weapons development apparently (great…) which harkens back to the Lord Armstrong constructing ships and weaponry for the Japanese forces. While he is in Japan Mr Cameron will be visiting Nissan’s head office in Yokohama in order to foster the continued relationship between Nissan and the North East, he is expected a to announce 1000 new jobs being created at the Nissan plant in Sunderland.
Nissan has operated a car building factory on the former site of the Sunderland airfield since 1986, and offered many jobs to a community that had recently been rocked by the closure of both the plethora of the regions coalmines as well as the shipyards. Then Prime Minister Margret Thatcher and Nissan President Yataka Kume officially declared the plant open in September of 1986 and since that time the plant has continued to grow, at one point employing over 5000 employees at the site. Due to the recession that number has decreased but with the expected announcement of 1000 new jobs the number of employees will return to near the 5000 rate apparently. The plant is the largest car factory in the UK and the most productive in Europe.
Nissan at Sunderland employs the Japanese system of Kaizen (改善) and which means ‘change for improvement’ or ‘continuous change’. Kaizen refers to the process of encouraging the entire workforce from the top to the bottom to seek out areas that can be improved upon at all times. The often cited example of this is an employee on a production line needimng to bend down to reach parts from a box on the floor; this should be improved by raising the box to an optimum level to increase productivity. The kaizen system was first implemented in Japan following World War 2 and has since spread across the globe and across many different types of businesses.
Certainly the news that new jobs are coming to the region is always good news, especially in this economic climate. The news that Mr Cameron is trying to foster more trade with Japan is welcome too, and we wait to see if it will impact upon the North East beyond the Nissan factory.