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Apprentices will run ‘junior factory’ within a drives plant

08 November, 2013

Siemens has opened a small “factory within a factory” at its drives production plant at Congleton in the UK, that will be run by commercial and technical apprentices aged 16 to 21.

The apprentices will be responsible for the full breadth of the factory’s operations and its progress for a year. The initiative is open to all apprentices and graduates as part of Siemens’ plans to train young people not just in engineering, but also in business management.

The “junior factory” will manufacture a sub-assembly – fans for use in Siemens’ G120C drives – that were previously imported. It will thus represent a re-shoring of manufacturing to the UK. The team of apprentices will be responsible for sourcing and managing the supply chain, producing sub-assemblies, supervising quality, budgeting and transfer pricing, as well as performance management.

“This is a really innovative project,” says Roland Aurich, CEO of Siemens UK and Ireland. “The aims are very clear – let’s train up our young apprentices for the long-term challenges they will face in their careers, whilst fostering a culture of innovation, autonomy and, crucially, entrepreneurship.

“We need to make a bold statement in Siemens and across industry: be an engineering apprentice and you can go from the shop floor to the top floor,” he adds. “Schemes like this help young people to understand how an engineering apprenticeship can lead to a rewarding career.”

Siemens has appointed a head of the junior factory and the team has written a business case describing how they see the factory working. This was presented to senior managers earlier in the year. Initially, the junior factory will be responsible for assembling the G120C fans. The team will have complete “ownership” of the chain, from planning, sourcing and assembly, to delivery of the finished fan assemblies to the main drives production line.

Roland Aurich, CEO of Siemens in the UK and Ireland (centre), with two of the apprentices who will run the "junior factory"

“I never thought that as part of an apprenticeship I would be given the opportunity to take on this level of responsibility – not just training and learning but actually running the facility as a business,” says Richard Lawton, the apprentice who is acting as the head of the junior factory. “I am really looking forward to working with the team members and making the project a success over the coming year, and learning about how running a full assembly line works in practice.”

The apprentices will also be responsible for resourcing their factory and ensuring that customer demands are met in the most cost-effective way. They will implement checks to ensure the quality of the delivered assemblies, and will also be responsible for drawing up the factory’s budget. This will include a presentation to a senior management team for approval.

“This ground-breaking project is a great opportunity for tomorrow’s engineers to get the training and experience they need to establish a successful career,” comments Mathew Hancock, Minister for Skills at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. “The junior factory demonstrates the great contribution apprentices can make to businesses and is a fantastic example of how we can innovate to plug skills gaps and help the UK get ahead in the global race.”

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