Lopez furnishes another new idea

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The Independent Online
NOT SATISFIED with saving single-handedly the European motor industry from being overrun by the Japanese, Volkswagen's cost-cutting supremo, Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, is turning his attention to improving the office chair.

Taking a break from his onslaught on VW's component suppliers - and from dodging General Motors' private detectives - the irrepressible Basque will soon be displaying the Lopez talents in the unusual forum of the Orgatec furniture trade fair.

There he will present the revolutionary movable office workplace. For six months VW's head of production has been working for a new admirer, Reinhard Flototto, owner of the eponymous family furniture firm.

This activity might suggest that Superlopez has had such success in shaking up Volkswagen's lumbering Jurassic Park factories that he now needs freelance work to fill in the days.

The alternative theory is that General Motors, still convinced that its erstwhile employee left for Germany taking with him half the corporation's secrets, has suddenly come up with such hot evidence that Mr Lopez is looking for a future in the furniture industry.

While less dramatic, the reality is no less intriguing. It seems the furniture maker asked if Mr Lopez and his boys would sort out the business, and Volkswagen's PR men no doubt saw a chance to polish further the image of someone still associated in many minds with sticky fingers and shredding machines.

An ecstatic Mr Flototto claims cost savings of between 30 and 40 per cent, production times reduced from a week to 45 minutes and furniture now only made to specific client orders.

The 6,000 square metre warehouse is no longer needed and has been rented out.

The next step is a week-long seminar with the Lopez team, presumably in its spare time.

And the furniture? Well that, too, will no doubt have a Basque quality.

The designer of the lean-production movable workplace is one Maite Lopez, daughter of the great man.