Phase Seven

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

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

Phase Seven
Month 24 and Beyond: Defect Tracking
Data Added: Warranty and dealer report data, engineering modifications, service bulletins
Storage Requirement: 1.4 terabytes

Once GM ships a vehicle, the lifecycle management phase begins—what GM calls "continuous product improvement." But unlike software, auto bug-fixes aren't as easy as pulling down a fix from a Web page.

GM's engineers both collect information on problems from dealers and broadcast fixes out to them as quickly as possible—employing everything from satellite broadcasts to daily voice-mail messages for service managers. Service managers also are able to e-mail or call engineers during a launch with emerging issues and get quick resolution.

Once a vehicle is shipped to dealers, the product planning team gets direct feedback on quality issues from dealers through both in-person dealer council meetings and via satellite broadcasts.

Warranty claims are another way of tracking quality issues. GM sets a benchmark level for warranty and service incidents and costs for each vehicle it ships. Data is imported from dealer service records into a data warehouse for analysis, and reports on that data—and any problems that have exceeded the benchmark levels set for that product—are pushed out to the vehicle line team.

GM also is putting the onus of dealing with warranty claims back on its suppliers—along with additional information technology burdens. In the case of Johnson Controls, says John Waraniak, warranty and aftermarket repair demands mean that Johnson now needs to hold onto product data for the entire lifecycle of the vehicles the company's work ships in—and that can be in excess of 15 years, from design to final retirement of a part.

Of course, GM hopes that its new process will dramatically reduce the number of warranty claims. So far, that seems to be the case. Giaraffa says there have been no problems to speak of with the CTS other than a noise problem in fifth gear in the manual transmission version of the car. GM engineers say this turned out not to be a product development problem, but a supplier problem—the supplier, a German company that also makes transmissions for BMW, had "some inconsistencies in manufacturing." The problem was discovered early in the car's rollout, and production of the manual-transmission CTS was reduced until the problem was resolved.


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