Bob Muiter is becoming General Motors' point man on the controversial Vehicle Order Management System introduced in 1998. Muiter is getting used to explaining - or defending - VOMS to dealers, suppliers and the media. After spending millions of dollars on training and upgrades, GM still is refining the system.
'I've only been in distribution for a few years, but we're not unique,' says Muiter, distribution director for GM vehicle sales, service and marketing. 'Other manufacturers are continually tweaking their manufacturing-ordering processes. It's an evolutionary process. You're always upgrading and changing.
'I don't know anyone who provides more information in the industry than we do - or anyone who has better technology. We don't sometimes articulate the good things and we hear the negative things. But looking at the tools we provide dealers and the field organization, I'd match them up to any one in the industry.'
Maryann Keller, a 28-year Wall Street veteran who is now a private consultant, suggests VOMS was launched prematurely.
'For one with as many flaws as this system had, it discouraged users who were thinking that technology would provide a solution to ordering problems,' she says.
Muiter, 49, says GM (gm.com) takes 'inordinate measures' to be fair and equitable. 'We show dealers an open book. There's no trickery behind a curtain going on,' he says. 'We tell dealers how they earned their allocations.'
Another big change looms in September as GM seeks to move more VOMS applications to the Web, away from server-based applications. GM is beta testing an interactive Web-based dealer forecasting system. In September, GM expects to offer 'consensing' online as part of the GM DealerWorld portal. Currently, dealers agree to orders during monthly visits with GM field staff. This month, for example, dealers plan orders for September delivery.
As part of the new Web site, dealers will be able to see items such as sales history by month, availability, sales forecasts and desired inventory requirements.
The online enhancement should reduce the planning-to-delivery cycle time and provide a link to dealer allocation reports, GM distribution officials say.
Before GM overhauled VOMS in February, GM distributed orders to dealers using a pattern-order formula based on dealer sales in the marketing area, Muiter says. In that process, GM generated orders for direct contact dealers - 67 percent of the dealer body.
Dealers were supposed to be able to make minor changes to orders before GM submitted them for production. But dealers were changing up to 80 percent of their orders weekly, Muiter says, resulting in a rush for vehicles in limited supply.
'Dealers now go back to submitting their own orders against our allocations, which are based on their marketplace sales, allocations they requested and some GM constraints. That's the (February) change,' Muiter says.
The revised VOM system builds in a three-day window to administer the process. Dealers submit the consensed orders, which arrive about 50 days after orders are received. GM wants to reduce the order-to-delivery time to 40 days by year end, Muiter says.
Muiter says more ordering processes will move to the Web. 'As we bring forward new initiatives, we're trying to bring all those out on the Web,' he says. 'Our ultimate goal is to have everything on the Web.'