General Motors rolled ahead of rival Ford Motor Co. for the first time in the Harbour Report on productivity in North America, but the domestic automakers still rank far behind the Japanese in efficient car building.
Still, GM made its best showing on the Harbour Report North America 2002, which covers manufacturing performance for 2001. GM boasted North America's most productive assembly plant, seven category-leading assembly plants and seven of the 10 most improved plants compared with the 2001 report.
GM made the largest gain in overall manufacturing efficiency last year, with a 4.5 percent improvement and 39.34 labor hours required to stamp parts, build a powertrain and assemble one vehicle. GM finished ahead of Ford Motor in overall productivity for the first time since Harbour and Associates Inc. began publishing its report in 1989.
"They've been making dramatic improvements, and that improvement is broad-based," said Ron Harbour, president of the Troy, Mich., consulting firm, who released the 2002 report on Thursday, June 13. "It's pretty significant considering where they were four years ago."
Experts credit GM's gains to lean manufacturing efforts begun a decade ago, plus efforts to improve quality and develop common parts and manufacturing systems. GM also has made strides in designing products that are simpler to build, Harbour said.
"This should signal to everyone that we are taking the goal to be the productivity and quality leader very seriously," said Gary Cowger, GM North America president. "We really think we can achieve this level of significance."