The first Range Rover made under new social distancing measures in place to combat coronavirus drove off the production line at the Tata Motors' owned Jaguar Land Rover's manufacturing plant in Solihull in the West Midlands region of England on Wednesday, following a recent temporary pause in production due to the pandemic.
The luxury carmaker said that effective social distancing, hygiene and health monitoring measures are in place following an extensive review of all production lines, engineering facilities, office areas and communal spaces as the company starts a phased return to manufacturing.
"Seeing the first Range Rover come off our line today is a defining moment for Jaguar Land Rover, for all of us who work for the company and the many businesses in our supply chain. It marks the end of our temporary shutdown and signals the beginning of a return to normality. But, of course, this is a new normal," said Grant McPherson, Jaguar Land Rover Executive Director, Manufacturing.
"People will be experiencing many emotions, ranging from worry about hygiene to relief at being able to return to work and excitement at seeing colleagues again. The health and wellbeing of our employees have been our primary concern in the build-up to this point," said McPherson.
JLR, the UK's largest carmaker, said that employee health and wellbeing are at the centre of its plan for a phased return to production and, with the implementation of the new protocol, staff will experience a significant number of changes to their working day from the moment they enter the site.
Measures include temperature checks with thermal cameras, a two-metre distance between people wherever possible, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where that is not the case, the introduction of one-way systems and enhanced cleaning at the plants. In addition, JLR is offering every employee a reusable face visor made by the company.
Besides the new measures onsite, employees will be asked to take additional actions before returning to work. These include completing an online clinical questionnaire, signing up to a health and wellbeing charter, and monitoring their temperature at home before each shift.
Dr Steve Iley, Jaguar Land Rover's Chief Medical Officer, said, "We have been going through unprecedented times and my thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19, as well as with the healthcare professionals, whose role fighting coronavirus is appreciated around the world.
"Clearly the health, safety and wellbeing of the Jaguar Land Rover family is our primary concern. We have developed the most effective protocol and guidelines so that our people feel reassured about coming back to the workplace."
The medical officer said the UK measures are based on the extensive medical and operational review, including lessons learned from our teams in China and Slovakia, adding that the situation is being constantly monitored.
Des Quinn, Unite the Union National Officer, said: "We are satisfied that Jaguar Land Rover has not only implemented government guidance but has gone above and beyond to satisfy and ensure as many safety systems as possible are in place from the minute employees arrive in the minute they leave work."
Production of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles has also resumed this week at Nitra in Slovakia and Graz in Austria.
Last week the team at the Engine Manufacturing Centre in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, began building Ingenium engines again to enable the gradual return to vehicle production. Manufacturing will resume at the Halewood facility in north-west England on June 8, starting with one shift.
The company said that "small pockets of business-critical activity" are taking place at its Castle Bromwich facility in the West Midlands as it prepares for new model year introductions.
The company's joint-venture plant in Changshu, China, has been operational since the middle of February as vehicle sales recover there and customers return to showrooms following the easing of the lockdown, JLR said.
"As countries are relaxing distancing guidelines and retailers are reopening around the world, the restart of production at the company's other plants will be confirmed in due course," it added.
In its latest financial results last month, JLR reported a 42 per cent fall in sales of Jaguar models between January and March, while sales of Range Rovers and Land Rovers declined 25 per cent.
The company's total 2019-20 sales were down 12 per cent at 508,659 vehicles, primarily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacting sales in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.