This is the prepared text of the speech and may not reflect the verbatim presentation
Julius Epstein passed away recently. Julius and Philip Epstein were two of Hollywood's greatest screenwriters. They were the guys who wrote "Casablanca:"
January 16, 2001
"We'll always have Paris."
"Round up the usual suspects."
"Play it again, Sam."
Remember … All those great lines.
Well one day, the Epstein Brothers bump into their boss, Jack Warner of Warner Brothers, on their way into the office. It's 1:30 in the afternoon. Warner's furious. Tells 'em: read their contract: "Bank presidents and railroad presidents can get to work at 9," Warner said, "I don't see why you can't."
A few minutes later Julius hands Warner an unfinished script and says, "Here,… get a bank president to finish it."
Well, the Epsteins had been working at home while Philip was recovering from appendicitis and it turned out that they finished a major script in half the time - not the one they initially handed to their boss… and it went on to be a blockbuster. And from that point forward, the variety of screenplays and the location they were written from - was changed forever. The studios did things differently … by listening to the screenwriters… to the people who knew about how to improve their product and productivity … who knew how to "create the magic".
Well, this morning I'd like to talk to you about making cars and trucks - great cars and trucks. And give you some insight into what's going on at General Motors both in manufacturing and about our goal to become a global leader in product innovation. I'd also like to talk about listening - listening to our people and the relationship between the people of General Motors and how the way we work is helping us bring some major blockbusters - in our case, innovative new products - to a dealership near you.
You know, a lot of times the "new" guy comes in and the first thing he does is start talking about all the changes that he's going to make. Well, that's not my focus.
For one thing, I'm really not the new guy. I may be new to the title, but I've been around manufacturing my entire career. Managed several plants here in the states, been President of GM de Mexico and Chairman of Adam Opel AG, and ran our European Manufacturing Operations.
In fact, I've been involved in some capacity with GM operations around the world …
And for another thing, I'm NOT planning to make any major changes to our global manufacturing strategy.
And I'm not here to tell you what we're GONNA do … we used to do a lot of that. We're going to let our experiences and successes speak for themselves.
But, I must say, I happen to believe it is an excellent strategy, and it's generating some pretty solid results.
I think what we REALLY need to do is just continue to execute it at higher levels and at a faster pace. Continue to learn from each other around the world…and continue to benchmark the best of the best.
Now, let me pause here for a moment to recognize someone in the audience who's been a key part of our global manufacturing strategy. He's been a friend of mine and a mentor … and my boss - several times. But most of all, he's always been an excellent MANUFACTURING guy… Don Hackworth.
Last week, Don announced that he will retire on April 1st after 38 years with General Motors. So, I want to thank him for his leadership, and for his many years of friendship.
Now, I just said I'm not going to talk about what we're GONNA do … but I certainly don't mind sharing our accomplishments to date. So, let's look at a few measures, see if you agree:
I think our relationship with our people starts with a safe and healthy working environment. Fundamental. And we do that…better than anyone in the business, at the moment - and we intend to keep it that way.
Safety in GM today is the best in the auto industry -- #1. In fact, we're approaching overall benchmark… DuPont …levels of performance - GLOBALLY.
In fact, recently one of our competitors went to talk to Toyota about Safety. And, Toyota told them to go talk to GM… they're the benchmark.
I'm very proud of where we are. And, we intend to stay #1 in this area. It's not just a competitive advantage… it's absolutely the right thing to do.
Quality is the price of entry with our customers. And we're making major strides here as well. But, we need to improve FASTER.
Those of you manufacturing types here know, we measure almost everything in manufacturing. Quality, is certainly no exception. And, right now, all our internal indicators are telling us that several of our plants, such as, our Oshawa Car Plant and our Fort Wayne Truck Plant will be showing double-digit improvement when JD Power is released in May. And how they're doing it is very simple … by implementing our global manufacturing system, paying attention to detail and following up day-in and day-out.
Our goal is to get all our plants - wherever they are in the world -- to this same level of quality. And then, to keep the hammer down, because we know that this kind of performance is required by our customers.
You may have seen the 2001 Consumer Reports New Car Preview Issue. Last year, four of our vehicles were recommended by Consumer Reports out of the 49 they recommended. This year, we had more than double as many … nine vehicle brands out of 42 recommendations.
These includes the Intrigue, Grand Prix, Impala, Park Avenue Ultra, Bonneville, Prizm, Suburban, Yukon XL, and the Saab 9-5 which was recommended in both the sedan and wagon categories.
But we still want more - we NEED more. Our goal is to get all of our models on that list.
And we're driving the right things to make this happen throughout the company….with a total systemic approach. In fact, Quality is a Corporate value at GM.
Productivity. Now, I gotta tell you: It wasn't too long ago we used to dread the Harbour Report. I mean, absolutely dreaded it. "No! Don't show us that!" Now, I won't say we look forward to it - but it is a much better meeting.
You might have seen Ron Harbour's article in Automotive Industries. The headline was: "Surprise - GM Productivity Soars!"
"After several years of hard, quiet work," the article says, "GM arguably is the leanest manufacturer of the former Big Three."
Ron goes on to say that one of our most important initiatives vis a vis productivity has been the drive to standardize and commonize. And he's right. - I mean, you gotta agree with the guy when he's writing good things about you. Right? Common's been one of the pillars of our global manufacturing strategy and we're starting to realize the payoff - big-time - right now in productivity.
And we're seeing this same type of performance in our plants across the globe. We're learning from each other and implementing best practices fast. What's really exciting is to see how safety and productivity fit together. With new designs for machine safeguarding and ergonomics, we've documented significant improvements in productivity as well.
And we're using technology …
The Virtual Factory process uses math models of what works - it's our technical memory. And it requires consistent, COMMON application of processes and math tools.
And so on.
Math-based technology is fundamentally changing manufacturing -- just as it is changing every other business today.
All of this adds speed and flexibility to our manufacturing process. In fact, a common Bill of Process is in place in nearly all our manufacturing facilities that give us the ability to be as flexible as anyone else in the world today.
So as I said before, our global manufacturing strategy is generating some pretty solid results. But we've really got to execute it even faster.
You know, it really is all about execution. Don't tell me how good it's GONNA be - show me. And that's where our people come in…
It's no coincidence that I'm in charge of Manufacturing AND Labor Relations. We're trying to put a lot more decision-making directly into our employees' hands.
Vince Lombardi was a great football coach…had a reputation for being a real tough guy. Someone who bossed everybody around. But the reality is he actually ceded most of the on-field decision-making to his players.
And it worked for him… and it worked for his team.
"There are other coaches," he said once, trying to explain the root of his phenomenal success, "who know more about X's and O's…"
Lombardi continued…"But I've got an advantage. Because I know more about football players than they do."
Well, if I have an advantage it's that I've had a great opportunity to work closely with the people of General Motors around the world and to understand how they work. And, I've spent a lot of time right on the plant floor. That's where I've learned a little bit about people:
And I believe that everyone, in every position has a lot to offer. And we need to listen to them. And we need to engage their hearts and minds in improving the business every day.
We did an internal survey not long ago and found that 75% of our people…75%!
So, my #1 goal is to give them the opportunity to do just that.
Bill Parcells - today's Vince Lombardi, I guess you could say, and another guy you don't think of as taking instruction from his players - tells a great story about Lawrence Taylor's rookie season. Taylor, of course, would go on to become one of the best defensive players ever to play the game. Now, he and Parcells would go on to become very close friends. But back then he was just another rookie with a number on his back who the coaches were trying to determine if he could play pro ball.
It didn't start out well.
"He didn't have a clue what he was doing," Parcells said of Taylor. He was "like a dog chasing cars."
In one pre-season game Taylor ignored a pass coverage assignment and sacked the quarterback. Boom! The guy is flat on his back. Parcells began to grumble and scolded Taylor for his mistake, even though it turned out well.
Well, later in that same game, Taylor makes the same mistake, sacks the quarterback. Boom! Guy's flat on his back again, have to dig him out with shovels. But Parcells is beside himself: "What the heck do you think you're doing out there?" he tells him. "We don't even have what you're doing in our playbook!"
And Lawrence Taylor just looks at him calmly and says, "Well, Coach… we probably ought to put it in Monday, don't ya think?"
And that's exactly what they did.
Everyone, in every position has a lot to offer. And we need to listen to them. We need to make use of those talents. And put those talents to work more productively.
Now, as of January 1st, we've merged our car and truck groups here in North America into one Engineering and one Manufacturing organization. We call it "Convergence". It's helping to speed up our vehicle development process, and helping us deliver great cars and trucks to our customers.
It's making us:
Today design, engineering and manufacturing are working together in ways and at a level that they never have before. And there's a direct relationship between that and the level of innovation we're able to bring to our products.
So, we're showing solid results, doing more with less, and learning from each new facility wherever it is thoughout the world. That's our global manufacturing strategy.
But, you know what? Customers don't BUY Manufacturing. They BUY great, innovative products that fill their needs … that have …
It's about getting the right products to the right place at the right time.
Now, manufacturing absolutely must be an ENABLER to get this process done. It must provide the speed and flexibility our customers need.
But, bottom line …. It's all about winning in the marketplace… bringing the kinds of innovative products to market that we need to win, and that our customers - and some of our competitors' customers - want to buy.
So now let me finish with the most important element of all of this - PRODUCT.
As I've said before, great manufacturing without great product means nothing. And every one of us at GM responsible for various operations is also responsible for the product we produce. My position right now might be global manufacturing, but first and foremost, I'm a member of the GM PRODUCT Team.
So, let's look at where we already lead in product:
Trucks… GREAT Trucks …top to bottom…sport utilities to pickups … the whole shooting match… lots of awards .... 44 Awards for our full-size pickups and utilities in 2000 and 20 Awards so far in 2001. Automobile Magazine's "Best Pickup Truck" in 2000 for our Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. Truckin' Magazine's "Truck of the Year" Award in 2001 for the GMC Sierra. And, recently, Motor Trend's 2001 Truck of the Year Award for our Silverado Heavy Duty.
Our new mid-sized Trailblazer, Envoy and Bravada. The best of the new breed. With the Vortec 4200 - the Inline 6 that beats V8's with performance, pulling power and fuel economy. Terrific new line-up.
Cars…GREAT Cars…lots of awards here too…In fact, last week at the North American International Auto Show the Pontiac Vibe was named the "most significant new product" of the show. The best new concept of the show was the Buick Bengal…a terrific car and a real beauty!
And, Automobile Magazine's 2001 Automobile of the Year - the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. All the excitement and setting the standard for all sportcars to come.
But, real leadership comes in the marketplace. Of all the marketing divisions in the entire industry GM had 3 of the top 10 sellers in the marketplace in 2000. Chevrolet, Pontiac and GMC.
And, I gotta tell you we're adding some more real firepower …
Let's look at what's coming…and how manufacturing is helping us to become product innovation leaders…
The Chevy Avalanche. A totally new kind of full-size pickup with tough looks and a configurable bed and passenger compartment. Who's got that? Nobody. Manufacturing worked side-by-side with Product Engineering to take on the challenge to develop that new midgate. And, we made it happen.
The Buick Rendezvous. A new kind of crossover vehicle that is generating some excitement. With Versatrak, a flat floor, and a 3rd seat…and, that's a tough combination to put together. It's a niche that's nobody's filled before. We're making it happen.
The Chevy SSR. A retro-style roadster with incredible performance. We're making it happen. We took on the challenge to build a product that's true to the concept. And, I'm here to tell you … that's what you're going to get!
Man I love that car….Dick Shoemaker, Vice President of the UAW for the GM Department, and I had an opportunity to drive one in the Woodward Dream Cruise this year…. it was GREAT…
The SSR was a two year program. You saw it at the Auto Show last year… and along with our partners at ASC, who'll supply pre-production and design services, we'll build it before year end 2002. The final assembly process will be solely managed by GM and performed by UAW personnel.
And, today, I'm proud to announce that the SSR will be built at our Lansing Craft Center. We're still working through a few economic and regulatory issues around that site decision, but, we're optimistic we'll resolve them quickly. The team is excited about this innovative new product coming to Lansing. We're making it happen.
The Hummer H2. Unmistakable brand character. Now we're building it to be available to more people who aspire to this experience. We made it happen.
The Cadillac Escalade EXT. A cross between a luxury SUV and a Pickup. We're going to make it happen.
The Pontiac Vibe. An athletic crossover aimed at the youth market. You saw it at the GM Experience. We're going to make it happen.
One last thing… we're working on a new program …I'm not going to say anything more. But, the inspiration - the LaCrosse - will definitely be felt in Buick showrooms. We'll help to make the leap needed to get there.
And that's just North America. We're doing this around the globe as well.
The new Opel Zafira - This vehicle has already exceeded volume expectations by 30% in Europe. It re-defined its segment. And we're loading it with advanced technology.
The Celta - This vehicle changed the segment in Latin America as well.
The Vauxhall Speedster, developed where I was at Opel, is being produced - right now.
And the Holden Mambo - another great Retro Concept vehicle.
And the innovation doesn't stop at just vehicles.
Just look at the global power of our engines….
And of course, OnStar.
We're making it all happen - right now at General Motors.
So, Manufacturing is alive and well at General Motors.
We're making great strides. Producing some solid results.
And - most importantly -- producing some great new products… innovative products.
We're engaging our people in ways we never have before.
And, even in those areas where we're not number one…yet…we're finding new ways to win.
Now, I'm also a big baseball fan…play with the Tigers occasionally down in Florida. In fact, I played with Kirk Gibson at one camp.
A lot of people know the story about Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. One man on. The Dodgers behind by a run. And Dennis Eckersley, one of the greatest relievers of all time, on the mound.
Well, every baseball fan knows Gibson had two bum legs and couldn't run the bases. A home run would win the game and anything short of that, heck, the way his legs were, he probably would've been thrown out at first.
But what they didn't know was that his injury was so severe that he could barely swing the bat. He couldn't get around on a fastball. Couldn't get around on a curveball. There was only one pitch in Eckersley's arsenal that he could hit, a backdoor slider.
And Gibson's wondering how he's going to do anything. But as he walks out of the dugout toward the field for what would become one of the most celebrated pinch hits ever, one of the scouts pulls him aside and says, "Kirk, if you can get him to a full count, he'll throw you a backdoor slider."
"Are you sure?"
"Bet on it."
And Gibson went to the plate. Deliberately fouled off enough pitches to get to a 3-and-2 count… and the rest is World Series history. One backdoor slider planted in the rightfield seats.
Gibson was able to anticipate the pitch … and he hit a home run.
Well, we've been innovation leaders in the past because we've been able to anticipate what people want. And we created the styles that met their needs.
We're proud of our history. We've been innovation leaders since the introduction of the first electric self-starter on the 1912 Cadillac, … and the first mass-produced V8 engine in 1915, the first independent front-wheel-drive suspension in 1934, the first all-steel one-piece roof in 1935, and the first fully automatic transmission in 1940.
But the past is a lonely place to live. We certainly need to understand it, appreciate it, and build on it. But we must move forward.
And today we're innovators again, with products like the new Avalanche, Rendevous, and SSR… the Escalade EXT and Pontiac Vibe… the Opel Zafira and Celta … and, of course, Onstar.
You know, this is a fairly simple business…
The market has needs.
Whoever meets those needs the fastest … with the best … most innovative product wins.
And we're going to do what it takes to win.
Thank you very much.