GM's new plants embody best practices

Though General Motors' newest manufacturing plants in Lansing, Mich., and Russelsheim, Germany, will embody best practices from around the globe, that wasn't always the case at the world's largest automaker.

2001 Management Briefing Seminars index
"For many years, individual divisions and business units within General Motors were so big and successful that there was little interest -- and even opposition, in some cases -- to adopting new ideas that came from somewhere else," said Gary Cowger, GM group vice president of manufacturing and labor relations, on Thursday at the Management Briefing Seminars.

But every unit worldwide has had to drop that "not invented here" attitude, Cowger said. New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in California, CAMI in Canada, Eisenach in Germany and greenfield plants in Poland, Argentina, China, Thailand and Brazil all are contributing to the newest manufacturing operations.

The result has been improved productivity and quality, validated by recent industry reports showing GM moving up on its competitors in these areas, he said.

"We're not yet where we intend to be" on quality, Cowger said. "But when I look back to what people were saying just a few years ago, the scorecard is very gratifying."

Of course, producing innovative cars and trucks that hit home with consumers must be the effort of GM's development and manufacturing operations. Cowger said promising products, such as GM's family of mid-sized sport-utilities, and the appointment of Bob Lutz as GM product czar will accelerate that momentum.

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com

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