GM Suppliers: Know Your Manufacturing Process Well Prior To Launch

Strategies to becoming a top performing GM supplier focuses on knowing manufacturing processesIQMS recently attended the OESA sponsored General Motors Supplier Town Hall briefing in Troy, Michigan where over 500 supplier representatives gathered to better understand GM’s supply chain strategy for 2016.

The event agenda included a brief opening presentation by GM’s Vice President of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain (GPSC), Steve Kiefer, highlighting a renewed philosophy of partnership and efforts to improve relationships with their suppliers.

Strategies for becoming a top GM supplier focus on understanding your manufacturing processes

Mr. Kiefer and several other of the GM GPSC senior leaders participated in a panel discussion making opening comments and responding to audience questions. They emphasized some key strategies targeting mutual benefits for GM as well as top performing suppliers:

  • Collaboration and partnership engagement – annual surveys of suppliers encouraging feedback and suggestion programs aimed at improving GM policies and procedures affecting suppliers. The goal is to reduce costs and assure 100% defect free quality. The panel reported many examples of adoption of suppliers’ suggestions that led to a “win-win” result for GM and the suppliers.
  • Accelerate innovation – new special funding and technical resources focused on engaging with traditional and non-traditional suppliers with advanced and potentially disruptive.
  • A broader view of “total enterprise cost” for materials and components – look beyond the purchase order unit cost to understanding all costs (including packaging and logistics) involved in the supply chain to deliver necessary goods to assembly lines.
  • Pursuit of a “waste-free value chain” – given overall technical improvements in parts and their costs, GM is increasingly focused on reducing waste in exchanges of parts throughout their supply chain including unnecessary handling, administrative, packaging, logistics and even indirect labor costs.
  • Intense focus on improving launch readiness for GM facilities – due to the historic number of vehicle launches planned over the next several years, suppliers must discipline themselves to be “launch ready” as GM strives to do the same in its own processes. GM’s view is that you cannot have outstanding quality separate from correct volumes of parts at launch. Both must go hand-in-hand for launches to be successful.

Regarding this last point, one of the senior leaders on the panel, Tony Francavilla, Executive Director – Global Supplier Quality and Development, stated very plainly that suppliers preparing for successful launches and ongoing series production need to know their own manufacturing process well.

Mr. Francavilla continued saying that it is one thing to have small, careful builds of products for pilot events prior to launches, but that successful suppliers must test early and at full production rates to really discover where the risks are to delivery and quality.

He reminded the suppliers present in the briefing that run-at-rate trials before launch will expose issues with equipment, tooling and the regular operators that must be addressed to prevent problems during launches in GM assembly plants.

It appears to this writer that it is becoming more important than ever for suppliers to leverage integrated program management and shop floor monitoring technology to close the loop to assure that production processes are performing at required capacities and with consistent outstanding quality.

Make sure your software solutions work together to give you a true picture of your manufacturing processes to help you become a top supplier.

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Ed Potoczak, IQMS Director of Industry Relations, has more than 30 years of experience in the manufacturing industry. Formerly an ERP consultant at the Oakstone Group and Plante Moran, Ed has also held positions as a senior systems engineer for Chrysler, technical sales leader in parts suppliers and general manager for a process equipment builder.