Where Icons are born.
It turns out roughly 1000 cars a day: the MINI 3- and 5-door Hatch, the MINI Clubman, the MINI Electric and also the long since sold-out limited edition of 3000 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Thanks to automation, the production process takes just 22 hours from arrival of the material to completion of a car. “I’m a perfectionist, and adjusting machines so that they work perfectly is what I love about this job,” says Roe, who’s in charge of robot maintenance and quality control. At 53, Roe has seen his work become increasingly complex, but also more interesting, since he started out at Rover a good 30 years ago. All the same, without humans there would be no MINIs.
We now have data experts. And artificial intelligence has made the machinery even more efficient.
As Senior Process Leader, engineer Mark Skinner is responsible for ensuring that all production stages of all the models dovetail seamlessly. Only when every last detail is perfect are the cars released into the fresh air of the company car park.
Skinner has two GPs of his own that he loves to push to their limits from time to time. In spring 2020, he gave them an airing on a racetrack in the Midlands. But what does a petrolhead think about the vision of driverless electric cars with on-board entertainment systems keeping passengers amused as they glide silently along? “The petrol car will disappear, but I see no reason to mourn it,” says Skinner, “it’s exciting to be helping to shape the future of vehicle manufacturing” For MINI, it will be a race full speed ahead into the future. Annie Mercer, 29, agrees. She’s a technician at the QEC, the Quality and Engineering Center. In her office, she’s using a special type of camera to photograph components so as to check their measurements against the vehicle design. While the fully electric MINI was being tested in the pilot series, she did 3D scans of the engine. “Technology has always fascinated me and I wanted a job making things with my hands, but now I tend to be mostly at the computer instead,” she says, laughing. Sometimes, she also gets the feeling she’s sitting in a future lab. Virtual reality has long since been used in carmaking, to practise assembly processes, for instance. Meetings with suppliers and BMW colleagues also take place in the virtual world. “Who knows, perhaps someday we will be building flying MINIs that flit around round like spaceships,” says Mercer.
PERHAPS SOMEDAY WE WILL BE BUILDING FLYING MINIS HERE.