Nissan transforms old underused plant into global center

Article by Christian A., on September 16, 2014

Nissan’s 53-year-old assembly site in Oppama (Yokusuka, Japan) has been underutilized for some years, but the carmaker is breathing a new life into the facility by transforming it into a proving ground for car manufacturing techniques for overseas production. For instance, some halls at the Oppama were turned into a global training center.

This center has been educating foreign workers with Nissan’s production methods. Chinese apprentices were made to assemble toy Lego vans that represent Nissan vehicles. According to Hiroshi Ichikawa, a manager in charge of global training at Nissan Motor Corp., this will help these apprentices who have never produced a vehicle before learn how to build an actual one.

This learning strategy is distinct with Japan’s major carmakers and is an indication on how they try to shore up operations at their home turf. Nissan recently added a global pilot line to test-assemble vehicles that soon will be produced at Nissan’s other sites overseas like in Mexico, India and the United States.

Shohei Kimura, executive vice president for joint manufacturing with Nissan’s alliance partner Renault, the new global pilot line trims around a third off both investment and lead time when Nissan commences producing a new vehicle abroad. That would greatly benefit Nissan cost-wise, as the Japanese carmaker has open several plants mostly in countries unfamiliar with auto production.

Nissan opened sites in Mexico, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand in the past two year. It has also added production capacity in Russia and may soon open another plant in China. Fumiaki Matsumoto, executive vice president in charge of global manufacturing, remarked that the expertise and know-how is “distributed around the world" from the Oppama site. He dubbed the site as “global mother plant," adding that there are certain things that Nissan can do only in Japan.

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