Nissan’s Sunderland plant in north-east England, has been chosen by its parent company in Japan to be one of only two ‘global training centres for manufacturing excellence’.


Production supervisors from Nissan facilities across Europe, India, the Middle East and South Africa will come to Sunderland to learn how to become ‘master trainers’ in all aspects of lean car production.


They will then return to their own countries and train their workforce up to a global standard skill level.


In this way the centre will standardise training and education across the globe, ensure best practice is shared amongst all Nissan plants, and raise standards in basic and advanced manufacturing skills, the automaker said.


Part of the plant will be converted to house the centre. Once open, it will complement Nissan’s only other global training centre in Oppama, Japan, which carries out a similar role for Asia, Oceania and the Americas.


The centre will feature a replica production line dedicated to each area of manufacturing, along with training rooms.


It will be staffed by Sunderland’s training department together with ‘hand-picked’ manufacturing supervisors, who recently spent seven weeks in Japan preparing for their new role.


This included an intensive development programme in training techniques, as well as spending time at Nissan’s Oppama centre, to study skills training.


Kevin Fitzpatrick, deputy managing director at the Sunderland Plant said: “It’s a significant honour for our plant to have been chosen to train staff from other Nissan facilities spanning four continents. It shows a huge amount of confidence in our ability.


“We have been rigorously applying Nissan’s efficient manufacturing system since 1986 when production started. Now, through the global training centre, we will be able to pass on our knowledge to other Nissan facilities, to the benefit of the whole company.


“In addition to our reputation for car manufacturing, our training department has won various national awards for staff development, so we are well-placed to offer our colleagues first-class training.”


Ian Green, a senior controller in Sunderland’s Training Department added: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to use our skills and expertise in lean manufacturing to help other plants to reach the same standards as ourselves and Japan.


“We are working closely with the Oppama centre to ensure we deliver a truly global standard, using the best of Japanese and European know-how.”


The first group of trainees will arrive in Sunderland in the autumn, when managers and supervisors from Nissan’s plant in St Petersburg, Russia (due to commence production in 2009) will be taught how to train their new workforce.