Flexible production saves GM $1.5bn a year


The largest carmaker in the world, GM, has reported saving of up to $1.5 billion a year due to a new flexible production manufacturing system.

The system, which is in place in more than half of its North American factories means one production line can produce multiple models with only minor changes. In the past most of the tooling had to be replaced to change models.

Mr Gary Cowger, president of GM North America, said the savings would continue as new model lines were launched because "flexible" design meant factories had to close for less time to change from one model to another.

He said a model changeover in a plant now took three days, down from six weeks.

"We have seen huge savings over the past four to five years on implementation of our GMS and our flexibility by having shorter turnovers at model change," he said. "We have been saving $1.5 billion a year over the last several years by being able to improve throughput."

On top of that, an extra $120 million can be saved from the cost of introducing a new model as GM equips body shops with "C-Flex" flexible robots, although so far only three plants have the system.

The level of savings is far higher than that planned at Ford Motor, GM's rival, which is hoping to save $1.5 billion-$2 billion over the next decade from its belated move to flexible production.