Blog: Dave LeggettPlant productivity

Dave Leggett | 3 February 2004

The beginning of the smartville feature by Chris Wright that we’ve just published took me back a few years to the days when I worked at the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with Ian Robertson and the automotive publications unit published annual comparative surveys of plant productivity (expressed in terms of units produced per employee). A freelance guy called John Hartley (no, not JR ‘fly fishing’ Hartley from the British Yellow Pages TV ads of the time, although that was not too far removed from the mental picture I had) used to put it together, but the annual grind of doing it wore him down I seem to remember. By the end, he preferred - not unreasonably perhaps - to spend his days on a yacht sailing the Mediterranean. I remember talking to him on his cell phone about some of the thorny technical issues concerned with the survey to the accompaniment of shrieking seagulls at his end. Way to go JR, I mean John.
But the technical issues were not to be sniffed at. Volkswagen refused to participate and it was very difficult to make sure that the comparisons between plants were truly fair due to the complex nature of vehicle manufacturing these days. Arguments sometimes followed when the league tables were published. But good luck to the guys at World Markets Research Centre (WMRC) who picked up the baton from the EIU after the EIU shut its automotive publications division (bad decision - sorry, can't quite let it lie, even four years on) and are carrying on the survey. I wonder who’ll be top of the pile in Europe this year? It couldn’t be Nissan Sunderland yet again could it? I’ll eat my hat if it isn’t.


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