Minister pays Optare a visit to mark commissioning of new plant

To mark the final commissioning of Optare’s new bus assembly plant at Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire, the company was today (Thursday, 03 November 2011) visited by Transport Minister Norman Baker.

The Minister’s visit began with a brief overview of the numerous benefits that Optare and its customers will gain from the new facility. These include the potential to double output to 1,200 buses a year; a significant improvement in efficiency leading to lower costs and shorter delivery leadtimes; the ability to achieve higher and more consistent quality standards; and the opportunity to make substantial environmental gains including reaching the target of ‘zero waste to landfill’ from the new site.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said: ”By opening this new plant in Sherburn, Optare is helping to safeguard manufacturing jobs and giving a big vote of confidence in bus manufacturing, which is a great boost for the local economy.

“I was also pleased to see Optare’s involvement in the Government’s £47m Green Bus Fund. Their range of low carbon buses is already in service and helping operators and local authorities to reduce carbon emissions from their buses. Optare is helping both to create growth and cut carbon, which are my two key transport priorities.”

Optare Chief Executive Jim Sumner said: “We are delighted that Norman Baker has found time in his busy ministerial schedule to see for himself what a state-of-the-art bus assembly plant looks like. This is the first new bus assembly plant built on a greenfield site to be opened in the UK for over 40 years and we believe that it will set the benchmark in our industry.

“We have used the opportunity to build on Optare’s quarter of a century of bus building experience to create a highly efficient bus assembly operation employing best practices and processes. And we have also benefited enormously from the support of our strategic partner, Ashok Leyland, who has provided invaluable expertise and practical support based on its recent opening of several new vehicle assembly plants.

“It will be from Sherburn that we will continue the inspirational thinking that lies behind some of the most innovative buses to come onto the British market for many years. And it will be from here that we will expand our presence both in the UK market and, with continued support from Ashok Leyland, into new markets around the world.”

With 140,000 square feet of space, the new assembly plant has substantial capacity to meet both domestic and overseas demand. It includes investment of £750,000 in two new paint plants which feature the best available technology. Productivity gains will also come from more off-line sub-assembly work and the very flexible layout of the plant. The plant currently employs 400 people, but increased volumes could see this number grow significantly.

“The cost benefits of these improvements, along with our ‘Low Cost Country’ component sourcing strategy, which is being pursued vigorously in collaboration with Ashok Leyland, will enable us to be very competitive on price. It will also allow us to build in larger volume batches for the bigger fleet customers whilst retaining our flexibility to meet the needs of our smaller customers and to grow our overseas sales,” concludes Mr Sumner.