This morning I visited the car plant that manufactures the Mini and watched a batch being made for export to Japan. 54 cars an hour, each specified and paid for and each different, are built quietly and cleanly by four thousand ‘associates’ and a lot of eerily beautiful robots. We watched several of their elegant dances, such as the one where they measure the gap in the front of the car body, pick up a windscreen from an automated trolley, put hot glue around the edges and gently position it.
As the car passes along the assembly line its wheels, air conditioning system, seats, whatever, are brought in and their barcodes checked to make sure the right component is being added to the right body. An external company handles these logistics and is fined a staggering £17,000 for each minute that the line is delayed as a result of a mistake. Quite a contrast with the 1960s when our guide was one of 26,000 workers in the factory and sometimes he’d come back from a break to find the shop floor deserted. Something had gone wrong and everyone had downed tools and walked out.
Cameras and phones are banned from the factory, and my other pleasing encounter of the day is also imageless. This evening the choir I sing in took part in a concert with several other groups. I arrived too late to pick up a programme so could find out nothing about an exquisite piece of music I heard another group singing. In the interval I went to read what I’d been listening to so I could find it on YouTube. I told a friend how much I liked it. She laughed, then introduced me to the composer who just happened to be standing behind me. And I discovered I won’t find it on YouTube – it was only its second performance.
The unifying feature of the day was rain, so here’s some. I fear it’s damaged my camera since the computer couldn’t find the camera data when I got home…