Rotarians learn all about life at Nissan

Morpeth Rotary Club members were given a guided tour of the Nissan facility on Wearside
Morpeth Rotary Club members were given a guided tour of the Nissan facility on Wearside

Morpeth Rotary Club

A total of 24 Rotarians and guests travelled 30 miles to visit the Nissan plant near Sunderland.

Guides Gordon and Frank each took a group of 12 to be kitted out in high visibility jackets, plastic safety specs and strong hats that looked like junior baseball caps. Everyone had a radio receiver to hang from their ears to pick up what was being said.

The site was originally a World War II airfield. It passed to the local authority and was being used as a flying club.

Construction began in 1984 and once finished, the factory was opened by Mrs Thatcher on September 8, 1986. She placed a time capsule and a Japanese Daruma doll as a symbol of good luck for the new venture.

Gordon is a retired maintenance technician who worked on robots and welding equipment in the body shop for 18 years. It costs them £3,000 a minute if there is a breakdown and production has to stop.

All aspects of the line are monitored and there is a quick response group. Maintenance technicians patrol the shop, on call by radio or tannoy. They have five minutes to fix a breakdown then a team leader must be called.

After another five minutes, a supervisor must be called then after another five minutes a team leader supervisor and so on up to manager level. If one of the car bodies crashes and sticks, it is cut up and thrown out of the way.

Design is now carried out at a centre in Paddington and Research and Development at Cranfield. Steel sheets come in from a number of sources, including Wales.

There are three or four sets of dies for each process as they are gradually formed so as not to split the metal. The light presses are seven tons, heavy presses 30 tons and the heaviest 5,000 tons.

The process aims to be blemish free and 98 per cent do not need faults to be polished out. A metal tag in the window aperture tells the paint shop equipment what to do for each individual car. There are 760 robots in the body shop.

In the fabrication area, the engine compartment comes together with the rear floor and the front floor. They go to an initial spot welding station where all three are tacked together, then go down the line for more welds.

A storage area in the factory holds 1.5 million parts – eight hours stock for each. Electronic scoreboards show the target for the shift.

The Qashqai and Leaf were being made as members walked through. Temporary brackets hold the doors and tail open ready for the paint shop to let the fluids and gasses out.

Bodies go through an 11 stage cleaning process and a tank of zinc phosphate, which etches the body ready for the paint shop processes. This includes waterproofing and rust proofing.

The body goes through the ovens five times. It is checked for blemishes followed by dust removal using ostrich feathers which last four months before being replaced.

In 1986, 5,600 cars were made – 10,000 cars a week are made now at a rate of 500 cars a day (four different models). A total of 10 wind turbines provide eight per cent of the power on site.