Jaguar Land Rover revving up ready to hit ground running

Jaguar Land Rover’s new engine factory near the M54 will be running around the clock virtually from the start, detailed plans revealed today.

Manager Keith Hawke in one of the huge assembly halls inside the JLR factory at the i54 site in Pendeford near Wolverhampton
Manager Keith Hawke in one of the huge assembly halls inside the JLR factory at the i54 site in Pendeford near Wolverhampton

The application from JLR’s property agents, Arup, to extend the original factory scheme with a 250,000 sq ft assembly hall also includes a breakdown of worker numbers and shift patterns.

And there are also detailed plans assessing the traffic impact of the new plant and the proposal to seal it off from the Wobaston Road so that all traffic to and from the factory, apart from public transport and emergency vehicles, will use the new M54 slip road now under construction.

This will link the site directly to the motorway that runs along its northern edge. The aim will be to avoid overloading the busy Wobaston Road and the Three Tuns Roundabout.

The plans for the new building will include a faith room for religious observances, meeting rooms, kitchens, a cafe and an education centre where local schoolchildren will get the chance to learn about the world of modern hi-tech engineering, in the hope of building the new generation of engineers who will work at the plant in the years to come.

The education rooms will even include an observation deck where youngsters will be able to look out over the engine assembly hall to watch production taking place.

The new planning application to extend the factory is likely to get the go ahead from councillors by late summer, with hope of work starting by the end of the year.

In the meantime construction work is continuing on the already approved first phase of the factory, with installation now under way of the heating and ventilation equipment and plant infrastructure that need to be in place before the engine production lines can be built.

JLR has already recruited its senior management team to work alongside factory operations chief Ken Close and it is understood the company had to sift through hundreds of applications for the handful of jobs.

The factory team will be based at the factory from the start of next year, and the first phase of major workforce recruitment is expected to start shortly afterwards.

Mr Hawke outside the main reception at the JLR factory on the huge i54 site
Mr Hawke outside the main reception at the JLR factory on the huge i54 site

The new plans placed with South Staffordshire Council show that the factory will employ 1,100 JLR staff and 200 contractor employees. It is estimated that 867 of these will be production employees mostly working in the huge machining and assembly halls.

While shifts in the machining hall will run from 6am to 4.30pm and from 4.30pm to 3am, shift patterns in the two assembly halls leave a gap for a potential third shift. Currently they are planned to run from 7.15-7.30am until 4.15-4.30pm and from 8.15-8.30pm until 5.15-5.30am.

The new wing to the factory occupies space previously set aside for car parking, so that has all been redrawn to provide a total of 1,040 car parking spaces to the south and east of the complex.

JLR is also proposing a landscaped wildlife corridor along the southern boundary of the site as part of landscaping work.

Next year will see the factory’s workforce recruited and factory equipment installed and tested, with practice production runs before the first engines intended for new cars start running off the line early in 2015.

Jaguar Land Rover says the factory will make a series of more ecologically friendly in-line four cylinder diesel and petrol engines for its next generation of saloons and 4x4s.

Currently only the hugely popular ‘baby’ Range Rover, the Evoque, is powered by four-cylinder engines, supplied by Ford.

What is expected over the next two years are a series of smaller, lighter models to be mated to the new cleaner but powerful engines from Wolverhampton.

JLR is spending around £2.7 billion in the current year on new factories and developing cars, with around 40 new and refreshed models expected over five years.

Details on what is planned are being kept wrapped in strict secrecy.

But recent moves to significantly expand the footprint of the Jaguar factory at Castle Bromwich seem to point to plans to increase the range of models bearing the historic leaping cat insignia.

Another indication would be last month’s sales figures that showed demand for Jaguars in China – now JLR’s biggest single market – had doubled on May 2012.

Recent figures have surfaced – although JLR say they didn’t come from them – suggesting the company is gearing up for a major jump in sales in 2015, from around 400,000 this year to 540,000, and up to 640,000 in 2016.