I spent three days last week at the Automotive News World Congress Event in Detroit.  This was my second year attending this conference and as you can imagine it was a very interesting time to listen firsthand to so many executives from the industry.  The theme of the conference was "A World of Opportunity:  Global Strategies in Challenging Times."  The presentations were excellent and for the most part I felt that there was a strong "can do" spirit at the event.    

imageOne of the presentations that really made an impact was by Jon Lauckner, GM Vice President of Global Program Management.  He took us through a journey of product development at GM over the past six years.  He described a tremendous transformation from a regional view to a truly global view.  In 2005 GM formed Global Architecture Development Teams (GADTs).  This allowed the company to create teams that specialized in certain core competencies, say mid-size vehicles or small vehicles while supplying that product to all markets around the globe.  This effort enables a common global vehicle architecture, followed by a lead vehicle program, then follower vehicle programs in different markets.

Jon gave a great example to illustrate the power of this collaboration and approach.  The 2010 Chevrolet Cruze.    The core architecture of this vehicle image was developed in Germany, the exterior and interior design styling from Korea, and the end product for the US market was built in Lordstown Ohio.  The benefits:  reduced architectures and greater economies of scale.   Manufacturing flexibility has also grown dramatically with more standard processes.

So what does it take to enable a process like this?  It requires tremendous collaboration.  Jon described an environment that must manage engineering and design centers across 14 countries with 30,000 plus users.  An environment that transfers over 125,000 files per day (50 GB) with access to over 4,000 suppliers.

At Microsoft we know its more important than ever before that we help manufacturers enable global product development.  Our core collaboration capabilities, combined with our tremendous PLM partners like Siemens and Dassault bring manufacturers tremendous tools for innovation.

GM is definitely wrestling with many challenges right now, but in this case I have to give credit to GM for their great progress in building a global product development organization.  I believe their new products and designs clearly reflect this progress.

If you would like to see more of Jon’s presentation, all executive presentations from the Autonews event are located here.  As always, I welcome your thoughts.