Thorn Lighting's Spennymoor plant near Durham - one of a dozen factories worldwide - contains a huge and impressive display of manufacturing technology. Plastic components are produced by no fewer than 26 injection moulding machines, the granules arriving at each one through colour-coded pipes. State-of-the-art computerised Salvagnini and Amada punching and forming machines turn out a variety of sheet metal components the programs being downloaded direct from solid modelling CAD systems in a new £20-million lighting laboratory. Other departments hum with the sound of presses, rotary coil winders and still more machines. Just when the visitor thinks that he has seen it all, it appears that there's a Awhole 30,000sq.ft electronics assembly building still to come. It might itself have been a contender for the Electronics industry award.
Yet, in spite of all the activity, it would be wrong to suppose that Spennymoor had grown to its present state. In recent years at least, it has in a very real sense contracted - which it had to do for the sake of survival. A dozen years ago the factory employed 2,500 people. In the wake of sell-offs and redundancies only 1,100 remain on the site. But the transformation also swept away decades of traditional practices.