The Durable Car Company - Sri Lanka
The Durable Car Company was established in 1991 in Bataduwa, Galle, Sri Lanka, to make Morris Minor panels. Tools and jigs for over 80 chassis and bodyshell panels have been developed. They have been designed to suit the exacting standard of our long serving workforce. The panels being made are sold successfully, in the UK and elsewhere, because of their consistent quality and competitive price.
The company was started after Mr Dhana Samarasekera contacted Charlie Ware to tell him of the many Minors in Sri Lanka, where they are used as Taxis. He had heard of the work of the Morris Minor Centre and as they talked about the principles of Durable Car Ownership, the intrinsic value of labour to the worker and the changes in the modern factory production, a new idea for international trade took shape.
There was a need in the UK for a high quality but cheap alternative to the panels made at the time. Dhana owned land in a poor area of Galle and saw the potential to employ skilled local people and improve the local economy.
It must be stressed that this is not an exercise in using cheap labour to make cheap and cheerful products for western markets. But is a serious project, showing how well paid craftspeople in a developing country can sell their manual skills in a highly competitive world market.
Obviously the difference in labour rates between Europe and a developing country like Sri Lanka are fundamental to the project, but we are not interested in a like for like manufacturing process. For example, in a modern pressing plant in the UK or Taiwan the same panel will be cheaper in Taiwan because of its lower labour costs.
At the Durable Car Company, Sri Lanka a different approach has been adopted. In a modern plant, the panel may take three minutes to produce. In Sri Lanka, it takes two or three hours for a skilled well paid metal worker to make the same panel.
The consequence of this is that our present workforce, of twelve, make the same number of panels as perhaps one or two people in a modern panel pressing plant.
This could appear to be a rather silly old-fashioned system in the context of modern mass production methods, but in the context of Southern Sri Lanka, where unemployment runs at 28%, it works well. Each well paid worker supports in one way or another an extended family of ten other people, so at present our small factory is directly contributing to the well being of four hundred local people.
Minors in Sri Lanka: An article from the Minor Monthly magazine (Nov 2000) by Bob Beavan who visited our Sri Lankan Factory.