You would think that sitting down on the job at Europe's most productive car plant would be frowned upon. But that's exactly what some workers at Nissan's Sunderland factory in north east England are being encouraged to do.

Engineers have designed and built a number of special 'seat shuttles' that have been installed at points along the final assembly line so operators can sit down to carry out their work instead of ducking in and out of cars.

Department supervisor, Colin Carr said: "Some of the jobs on the line require an operator to kneel inside the car to work. Over an eight-hour shift this can become very uncomfortable.

"The shuttle takes away a lot of the strain by allowing the operator to sit down and swing into the car on an articulated, pneumatically-powered arm. We received so much positive feedback from the operators who tested our prototype that we immediately began building more.

"We're now looking to adapt the system for use on other areas of the vehicle such as under the body and at the rear. We're also looking to reduce the size and cost of the shuttles so we can put as many as possible onto the line."

The £3,000 shuttles were designed and built in-house by Nissan's Kaizen department - Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning 'the spirit of continuous improvement'.

Currently there are six shuttles in operation. But Kaizen workshops responsible for both the Micra and Primera/Almera final assembly lines plan to double that number by the end of the year.