Innovation on the Line: GM Manufacturing Milestones
Many of General Motors’ most important innovations have occurred behind the scenes, in its manufacturing facilities. Concepts such as changeover, flexible assembly, automation, computer simulation, machine vision and robotics were developed at GM. Over the decades these innovations have helped enable improvements in vehicle quality, efficiency and competitiveness.
1901: Ransom Olds’ famous Curved Dash Oldsmobile, designed with simplicity, reliability and value in mind, was the first American car built in a factory designed specifically for automobiles and in standardized volume production. GM acquired Oldsmobile in 1908.
1908: Cadillac wins the Dewar Trophy, Europe’s most prestigious award for precision and excellence in manufacturing, by demonstrating the auto industry’s highest standards for precision and interchangeability of parts by disassembling three Cadillacs and mixing the parts randomly before reassembling and driving them before a contingent of judges.
1922: GM hires William Knudsen to lead Chevrolet’s turnaround. Knudsen implements flexible mass production, which helps Chevrolet incorporate annual styling changes and take market share from Ford.
1923: To provide Chevrolets to customers in Scandinavia, GM opens its first assembly plant outside North America, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
1924: Duco, a new, durable and quick-drying paint developed by GM and DuPont, is introduced, giving customers a wider array of color choices and cost savings for GM. By 1926, Chevrolet used it on all of its cars, a competitive advantage over Ford.
1928: GM opens the Sao Caetano do Sul plant in Brazil, as well as India’s first automobile assembly plant. Chevrolet switches from a four- to a six-cylinder engine in just three weeks thanks to sequence lines, the forerunner to conveyors.
1936: GM Fisher Body introduces the Unisteel Turret Top Body, formed by welding the steel inner and outer panels into a permanent, shock-resistant structure designed for greater comfort and durability.
1953: Buick opens a new V-8 engine plant in Flint, Mich., featuring the “world’s most modern engine assembly line.” Two, 600-foot-long lines turn out 1,200 engines a day.
1961: The world’s first industrial robot is used at GM’s Ternstedt components plant in Trenton, N.J. The Unimate’s 4,000-pound arm positions extremely hot diecast metal parts into cooling pools.
1969: The world’s first programmable logic controller (PLC) application occurs at the Hydra-Matic Transmission plant in Ypsilanti, Mich. This digital controller was used to automotive machinery on assembly lines, replacing the labor-intensive use of relays.
1966: Lordstown (Ohio) Assembly opens, and is touted as the most automated automotive plant in the world.
1971: GM engineers develop a pneumatic tool control system at the Fairfax (Kansas) Assembly plant. The computer-based device guarantees the correct torque value is applied to 30 critical fastened joints on Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac sedans.
1976: The world’s first automotive laser welding application occurs at GM’s Moraine (Ohio) plant. It uses two, 1.25-kW CO2 lasers to join valve assemblies for emission control systems.
1977: SIGHT-I, the first industrial computer vision system on a U.S. automotive production line, is installed at the Delco Electronics Division plant in Kokomo, Ind.
1978: The world’s first programmable universal machine for assembly (PUMA) robot is used at GM’s Rochester Products division.
1980: GM unveils a standardized computer language called Manufacturing Automation Protocol (MAP) to communicate with PLCs, robots, conveyors and other plant-floor equipment. Within two years GM Truck and Bus in Pontiac, Mich. truck begins installing MAP. The result is better control over the manufacturing process because proprietary data systems are eliminated.
1982: GM launches a major campaign to increase productivity through automation.
GM forms a joint venture with FANUC Ltd. to create GMFanuc Robotics Corp.
1983: GM’s Orion Township, Mich., assembly plant opens. It features 22 unmanned forklift trucks that follow wires buried in the floor and bring parts to the assembly line. GM embarks on the innovative Buick City experiment in nearby Flint. The $300-million project transforms one of the oldest automotive assembly plants in the world into a state-of-the-art, lean manufacturing facility that opened in 1985.
1985: The Detroit-Hamtramck plant opens and begins assembling Buick, Cadillac and Oldsmobile sedans. It features 2,000 programmable devices, including 260 robots.
1995: Annual vehicle sales outside North America exceed 3 million units for the first time. GM establishes a joint venture in China with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. The Synchronous Math-Based Process is launched to digitally design vehicles, components and production processes.
1999: GM’s parts-making operations become Delphi Corp.
2002: The flexible Lansing Grand River factory opens. It is GM’s first plant built in the 21st century and is located on the site of the original, 100-year-old Oldsmobile complex. A new assembly technology called C-Flex is unveiled. The programmable body shop tooling system replaces body style-specific tooling. It allows multiple body panels to be robotically welded with the same set of programmable tools and robots.
2003: GM’s Global Manufacturing System (GMS) debuts. Flexible layouts and production processes are designed around providing support for operators and teams on the plant floor so that all manufacturing facilities globally can build high-quality vehicles at a competitive cost.
2005: GM operates three of the top five vehicle assembly plants in the annual Harbour Report. The Oshawa, Ontario, plant is ranked the most productive plant in North America.
2006: GM’s newest assembly plant, Lansing Delta Township, opens. It is GM’s fastest-built assembly complex. It also is the first manufacturing facility to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.
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Mary Barra Greets Customers, Employees in Kansas City
General Motors CEO Mary Barra spoke to customers, employees, dealers and government officials at GM’s Fairfax Assembly on Monday to celebrate the global production of 500 million GM-branded vehicles. The prepared text of her remarks is below. As always, the speaker’s words are definitive.
Good morning, and welcome to all of our guests today – employees, our union partners, our local dealers, government officials, our media guests – and a special welcome to our loyal customers and retirees.
It’s great to be at Fairfax Assembly to celebrate a landmark achievement for our company. General Motors recently passed a significant production milestone: 500 million vehicles built globally from brands like Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel, Vauxhall and others.
For me, this is much more than a number – it represents 500 million stories in GM’s rich history.
It’s about earning customers for life and providing our customers with exceptional ownership experiences.
Think about your family road trips…
Daily commutes to work…
The places we’ve visited…
The songs we’ve sung with the windows down and the sunroof open…
The relationships we’ve made because we drove somewhere…
It is a privilege to play such an important role in our customers’ lives.
As I consider the significance of this 500 million production achievement, I think about the generations of hardworking, talented women and men who have built the best possible cars, trucks and crossovers for our customers.
I think about the incredible innovations by our designers and engineers that made our cars safer and more reliable… with the latest technology:
· Things like inventing the first electric starter – in 1912 – making it possible for women to drive without first turning a heavy crank.
· Just over 50 years later, in 1966, GM introduced the industry’s first energy-absorbing steering column, which helped reduce the force of front impact collisions.
· In the early ’70s, seventies, GM was the first to offer cars that ran on unleaded gasoline, a major breakthrough in reducing exhaust emissions.
· Fast forward to more recent times, we’ve become a leader in electrification with the introduction of the Chevy Volt in 2011, and the soon-to-be released Chevy Bolt EV – our new affordable, long-range electric vehicle.
These are just a few of the inventions and innovations that have shaped our industry and the lives of many around the world.
Most of all, I’m grateful for the loyal customers who have put their trust and faith in us… 500 million times.
When you think about it, 500 million vehicles really represent all of the milestones our customers have had with our vehicles. To give you a glimpse of some of our customer stories from around the world, let’s take a look at this [play video]
These stories, and millions more, illustrate why GM means so much to so many. We don’t just build cars … we build memories.
As I said earlier, it is a privilege to play such an important role in our customers’ lives.
During 2015, we expect to sell more than 1,000 new vehicles per hour, 24 hours per day. This adds up to nearly 10 million vehicles, the most in our history.
I look at this extraordinary volume as 10 million more opportunities to prove what kind of company we are … and to say thank you.
In the U.S., we’ve already begun thanking our customers for their loyalty and their trust in our products – in big ways and small.
Chevrolet is giving customers free tickets to local auto shows and hosting exclusive owner events.
Also, during the busy holiday travel season, Chevy expanded subscription services such as OnStar.
Chevrolet also made April 1 a day of thanks – instead of pranks – with “Best Day Ever” surprise and delight moments across the country.
With help from some of our friends, customers enjoyed free gas cards, free lunches, impromptu concerts and even visits to Disney World for 100 deserving children in a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Florida.
Our global employees are excited about participating, too.
Soon, we’ll be giving them tools – like digital and traditional thank-you notes – so they can show their gratitude for our customers around the world. It’s an important and heartfelt gesture.
Also, every U.S. salaried and represented employee can say thanks from May 18-25 by giving a special Customer Appreciation Discount to a new or existing customer.
Equally important, we’re taking care of our customers every single day by listening to what they say and using their feedback to continually improve our products and our service.
Since 2009, trained specialists in our Social Media Customer Care program proactively support about 5,000 customers each month, seven days a week.
They answer questions, address concerns and, if needed, quickly connect customers with a solution.
They do this by monitoring GM’s 25 owned social media channels and 90 automotive enthusiast forums.
It’s one more way we are putting our customers at the center of everything we do.
Our focus… the reason we exist… is to serve customers so we can earn their business for life.
Here at Fairfax, this is what you do. You want to know that when a vehicle leaves this factory, it’s not just the best we can make, it’s the best anyone can make.
With the new Malibu, which will start coming off the line later this year, I can say the same thing about this facility and all of you that I say about GM as whole… the best is yet to come.
Thank you for allowing me to share in this moment of celebration with you.
Now I’d like to invite Alan Batey up to talk more about the Malibu and to share some great news.
Thanks, Alan. As we have said throughout the morning, for all of us at GM – it begins and ends with our customers.
I’d like to recognize a number of outstanding, loyal customers here today… some from the Kansas City area and from other parts of the country, including Tennessee.
To all of you, we thank you for choosing to be a part of the General Motors family. We wouldn’t be here celebrating our milestone without you.
As May is National Military Appreciation month, we would also like to thank all of our active military and veteran customers with us today. We are grateful for your service to our country.
In fact, we have one veteran here that I’d like to tell you about. Trent Brining is a retired Army corporal and Purple Heart recipient. He’s also a grandson of a Purple Heart recipient. Trent was seriously injured in 2005 after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during his second deployment in Iraq. He has since undergone 23 surgeries to his arms and legs.
Both he and his wife Samantha are also loyal Chevy customers. In fact, Samantha will tell you she credits Trent’s Chevy Silverado for getting the couple together. She says that she just HAD to meet the owner of the truck.
Trent, if you would, please join us on stage.
For all that you have done for our country… and for yours and Samantha’s loyalty to Chevy… we would like to present you with a gift.
Out of gratitude and recognition of your young and growing family…
Here are the keys to an all-new, 2016 Chevy Malibu… soon to be built by the proud UAW Local 31 / GM team here at Fairfax Assembly.
On behalf of the entire GM team, please accept our sincere thanks.
Like Trent, over the next 48 hours, one loyal customer in each our four global regions will receive a free vehicle.
With that, I’d like to again thank the outstanding UAW Local 31 and GM team here at Fairfax for hosting us, and for delivering for our customers each and every day.
And, thank you to all of our guests for joining us as we kick off our global customer celebration event.
GM Thanks Customers for 500 Million Rides
Barra, Batey give 2016 Malibu to wounded vet, announce $174-million investment
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – A half-billion vehicles over 106 years equals billions in commerce, payroll, investments and infrastructure in communities all over the world. For customers, these vehicles played roles in weddings, family vacations, graduations, new businesses and countless milestones along life’s journey.
Globally, more than 500 million General Motors-branded vehicles have been built – the most of any automaker by far – and the company is putting its customers at the center of the accomplishment.
GM CEO Mary Barra and GM North America and Global Chevrolet President Alan Batey celebrated the milestone Monday with customers, employees and dealers at the Fairfax (Kansas) Assembly plant, and surprised Iraqi war veteran Trent Brining with a “key” to a 2016 Chevrolet Malibu. Production of the midsize sedan begins at the plant later this year.
Brining, a retired Army corporal and Purple Heart recipient, was seriously injured in 2005 after being struck by a rocket-propelled grenade while patrolling a suburb of Baghdad, and has undergone 23 surgeries to his arms and legs. The grandson of a Purple Heart recipient, Brining is one of five customers who, within the next 48 hours, will be notified that they are receiving a new, regionally built GM-branded vehicle.
Brining is from Overland Park, Kan. and his treasured 2008 Chevrolet Silverado actually helped Brining meet his wife, Samantha. He is now a financial relationship specialist for a local credit union; they have a 17-month-old son.
Barra also announced that in the third week of May, all U.S. salaried and represented employees and retirees can share a one-time Customer Appreciation Discount. The discount can be combined with other incentives.
“During 2015, we expect to sell more than 1,000 new vehicles per hour, 24 hours per day,” said Barra. “This adds up to nearly 10 million vehicles, the most in our history. I look at this extraordinary volume as 10 million opportunities to prove what kind of company we are and to say thank you.”
Batey announced GM will invest $174 million in the Fairfax plant for new equipment and technology to support production of the 2016 Malibu and improve customer satisfaction. One enhancement – a “Shake and Rattle” booth – simulates any road condition a customer might experience – and identifies sources of noise so they can be fixed.
“Every element of the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu was designed to give our customers a beautiful and high-quality sedan with technologies that will make their lives easier and safer,” said Batey. “It will all come together here at Fairfax, and the men and women who work here can hardly wait to get started.”
Last week, GM announced it will invest $5.4 billion over three years to build the next generations of future vehicles in the U.S., including $783.5 million in three facilities in the state of Michigan and the $174 million announced today.
Since June 2009, GM has announced U.S. facility investments of approximately $16.8 billion. About $11.4 billion of that has come since the 2011 UAW-GM National Agreement. In total, these investments have created 3,650 new jobs and secured the positions of approximately 20,700 others.
Globally since 2009, GM has announced facility investments totaling about $36.7 billion. This includes the U.S. facility investments plus $5.75 billion in Mexico, $1.5 billion in Canada and $12.7 billion in other global regions outside GM North America.
Customers are king
Previews of customer milestones around the world were shared in Fairfax on Monday and will live on GM brands’ social and digital channels. Among them:
A recent retiree in Minnesota still driving his 1957 Chevrolet pickup truck – acquired from a farmer 38 years ago for $75
An Opel owner from Germany whose car traveled extensively with her and her husband – including to Hawaii
A Brazilian woman born in the passenger seat of a Chevrolet Chevette; she continues to be a loyal customer today
A Chevrolet Captiva club member in Thailand who used a fleet of Captivas to propose to his now-wife
A young man in China so inspired by his first vehicle – a Chevrolet Cruze – that he customized it to match his personality, then quit his job and started a retrofitting business to help other customers personalize their rides.
Ongoing customer appreciation initiatives have included free auto show tickets, exclusive owner events, surprise-and-delight moments from Chevrolet’s “Best Day Ever” blitz in April and more. In addition, GM employees are being encouraged to use customized notes to thank customers globally.
GM’s own milestones
Founded in 1908 and reborn in 2009, GM’s global presence dates to the early 20th Century when Sun Yat-sen, the first president of China, and Pu Yi, the last emperor, took their first automobile ride in a 1912 Buick. By 1931, GM owned Vauxhall in the United Kingdom, Holden in Australia and Opel in Germany.
GM’s first manufacturing joint venture with SAIC in China – Shanghai GM – began in 1997. China is now GM’s largest market, where it has 11 joint ventures and two wholly owned foreign enterprises.
Hundreds of GM innovations have helped change the industry, including the first V-8 engine, first automatic transmission, first automotive crash test dummies and first air bags in a production vehicle.
The ninth-generation Malibu, revealed last month at the New York International Auto Show offers an available, industry-first Teen Driver feature, a built-in system that let parents view on a display how their teen drove the vehicle.
The technology is designed to help parents teach safe driving habits. Automobile crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Fuel economy ranks high among midsize sedan buyers. The new Malibu’s lighter curb weight and an available, all-new hybrid powertrain, which shares Chevrolet’s Voltec technology, will help deliver GM-estimated combined city-highway fuel economy of 48 mpg – the highest in the segment.
General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com.