Phase Six

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2002-11-01 Email Print this article Print

Milestones along General Motors' route to becoming the first all-digital automaker.

Phase Six
Months 20 to 25: Documentation and user training
Data Added: Online repair documentation, parts manifests, multimedia training data
Storage Requirement: 1.5 terabytes

One of the tools in this suite is a manufacturing process management (MPM) system called eMPower. Based on software from Tecnomatix, eMPower is the manufacturing-centric counterpart to EDS's TeamCenter and other Product Data Management and Product Lifecycle Management tools. This connects everyone who works with manufacturing processes, from production engineers to suppliers like Tesco, to the design files, work-cell layouts, and facility diagrams that will define the structure of the final plant.

Instead of just pushing the plans for its robots and dies back into the TeamCenter system, Tesco is now putting them onto GM's eMPower server. The result is that GM manufacturing engineers can include models of robots in their own process models, and arrange them along with other equipment in an automotive version of the computer game SimCity, a simulation tool called EyeView that was developed by GM's own researchers.

Those tools already have started to have an impact on how GM manufacturing engineers work. For example, in the past, starting work on a new plant or upgrading an old one usually entailed sending most of the process engi- neering team to survey the site, to find the differences between the building's design "as planned" and what was actually built.

"Now," says Andreou, "we just have to send a single person." With a laser-surveying tool, all of the dimensions of the plant can be captured as a three-dimensional model— often in less than a day.

As manufacturing draws near, GM engineers have one more audience to bring up to speed—the dealers. The bill of materials and engineering data files become the source for the parts lists and repair manuals that service managers at GM's 14,000 dealers will use to support the products in the field. GM also uses the data on vehicles to provide dealers with the tools and initial stock levels for parts once the cars hit the streets.

While dealers and service managers often get an early look at new GM products at one of GM's proving grounds, like the ones in Milford and Mesa, the first exposure many dealers' mechanics get to a new GM vehicle is on video. GM's dealers are connected to the company through a satellite network that acts as the conduit for a video instruction system called Interactive Distance Learning (IDL). The satellite also provides the network link for dealers' connections to GM's Lotus Notes system.

"Training for the GM cars starts on IDL a year prior to them shipping—it gets us up to speed on the car," says Mike Giaraffa, the service department manager for Chesapeake Cadillac-Jaguar in Cockeysville, Md. He says GM sends out e-mail over Lotus Notes about a week in advance to alert them to upcoming training, giving them the satellite channel and presentation time. For example, CTS engine diagnostics training with live demonstration might be scheduled for 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, and Giaraffa can schedule his mechanics who need that training accordingly.

The training is two-way—trainees can use the system to ask questions of instructors. "They take things apart in front of you, and step through procedures with slides; it's our first line of training for certification on new vehicles," says Giaraffa.

GM provides the maintenance manuals for its vehicles in both printed form and over its dealer extranet, through service provider DealerNet. While Giaraffa still depends on the print version, he's found the Web version to be increasingly useful. For one thing, it gives him access to the data on all GM vehicles, not just the Cadillacs his dealership sells. His mechanics are starting to turn to the online version first as well.

"The guys are starting to switch over because they can find things faster on the Web." Typing "CTS clutch master cylinder" in a search window on DealerNet can take them straight to the specs for a manual transmission repair.

GM also sends out its service bulletins via DealerNet well before printed versions are mailed out. "They don't have to go through legal," says Giaraffa.


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