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11/19/2008
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GM's Worldbook Project Aims To Save Troubled Automaker

GM's Worldbook project standardizes data on engineering specs worldwide, to help GM build cars more quickly and at lower costs.

But that segregated approach conflicted with GM's goal to operate like a global manufacturing company and swiftly build and supply vehicles based on regional demand. Specifically, it didn't give GM the manufacturing flexibility to engineer vehicles in one region of the world and build them in another region, where there is demand for the vehicle or available production capacity. It also took time and money to translate vehicle spec data into forms that could be interpreted by systems located in regions that needed them.

The brunt of project Worldbook involved lots of new software code, Karaboutis said. GM developed one common data format for vehicle specs to be used by all six engineering homerooms, and then updated business systems at sites worldwide to be able to accept the new format. Karaboutis likens Worldbook to a common book of vehicle specs that everyone gets, with added addendums that contain data specific to regional requirements.

But by the end of this year, the majority of purchasing and supply chain systems worldwide, and some related systems, will be able to accept vehicle spec data from any of the six engineering homerooms, Karaboutis said. She wouldn't provide details on how much GM has invested in the effort, but said the ROI is clear: "GM operations have acquired the flexibility to engineer, order, source, build, sell, ship, and service anywhere," she said.

The common data format can help GM cut costs in other ways, such as providing it the ability to recognize that a part being used in one or more regions could also be used in other regions, potentially allowing GM to achieve economies of scale by making larger purchases of a particular part, she said.

A common language for vehicle specification data won't solve GM's problems. But it's an important step to helping the company become more efficient in the tough global auto market.

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