A SUPPLY chain specialist has weighed in on the debate surrounding the future of Honda in Swindon after last month’s news it is investing £200m in the plant.

Honda of the UK Manufacturing (HUM) announced more than 3,000 jobs had been secured at the South Marston plant in Highworth Road on March 31.

The car giant revealed it would make Swindon its global production hub for the next generation Civic, with production due to start in summer 2016.

Vendigital, which has a site in Windmill Hill, has said HUM’s suppliers will need to be agile in order to benefit from the opportunities this investment presents.

Dr Renaud Durand, senior consultant in the high-value manufacturing sector, said HUM’s success would also depend on how quickly the supply chain adapts to one-model production.

“Honda is confident switching to one-model production will bring productivity benefits,” he said.

“While the announcement will create confidence in the supply chain and allow room for more investment, there are bound to be some challenges too.”

Dr Durand said car makers, regardless of their size, will always encounter growing pains when making such a transition at their plants, especially if the ramp in production is too steep.

He said: “For any corporate, stepping up production brings risks – will the supply chain be robust enough to cope?

“In this case, the fact that the local supply chain is so well established will make it easier for suppliers to strengthen their relationships with the carmaker.”

He did recognise there was the second production line at the plant, which could easily be turned back on to enable the rise from 40,000 Civics per year to 120,000 per year.

Dr Durand noted the UK as an excellent location for a car marker to position itself for establishing a foothold in the European car market because of an abundance in skilled labour and rising new car sales.

At the time of the announcement, HUM director, Jason Smith, said: “By establishing HUM as a global production facility for the Civic five door, Honda is demonstrating its long-term commitment to manufacturing in the UK and Europe.

“This is incredibly important for HUM and is a reward for the commitment and effort put in by Honda associates in recent years.

“As a global production facility for the Civic five-door model we look forward to making the most of the opportunity to export this model not only to our European customers, but also, to key global markets.”

Production of the Civic began at HUM over 20 years ago and Honda’s latest investment in Swindon takes the company’s total investment at the centre, since 1985, to £2.2bn.