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Discrete event simulation of manufacturing systems has become widely accepted as an important tool to aid the design of such systems. Often, however, it is applied by practitioners in a manner which largely ignores an important element of industry; namely, the workforce. Workers are usually represented as simple resources, often with deterministic performance values. This approach ignores the potentially large effect that human performance variation can have on a system. A long-term data collection exercise is described with the aim of quantifying the performance variation of workers in a typical automotive assembly plant. The data are presented in a histogram form which is immediately usable in simulations to improve the accuracy of design assessment. The results show levels of skewness and range which are far larger than anticipated by current researchers and practitioners in the field.