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General Motors’ Recalls and Lean Improvement Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Aug 12th, 2020

Introduction

General Motors (GM) remains one of the most competitive automakers in the world today (General Motors, 2016). The company has numerous resources and financial assets that support its manufacturing processes. GM continues to deliver exemplary and luxurious vehicles to more customers across the globe. Despite such achievements, errors, and challenges have always been associated with GM’s business process. Such challenges are evidenced by the major concerns reported by most of the firm’s customers. For example, GM “recalled over 2.6 vehicles because they had faulty ignition switches in 2014” (General Motors, 2016, para. 3).

Such faults led to the death of around 124 people. Similarly, the giant automaker recalled over 4.3 million luxury vehicles in September 2016 (Nunez, 2016). Most of the affected vehicles had been manufactured between 2014 and 2016. Such automobiles had been observed to have software issues. Such “defects prevented airbags from deploying whenever there was a crash” (Nunez, 2016, para. 2). Since such defects had caused several deaths, GM decided to implement new measures in an attempt to improve the safety of its automobiles. The use of lean can play a critical role in dealing with the current issues affecting the company.

GM Recalls as an Internal Service Issue

Experts in the global automobile industry have acknowledged the presence of internal service issues at GM. This is the case because the occurrence of defects in such vehicles is a clear indication that several things are not being done efficiently. The company’s management team has not been committed to the best cultural and manufacturing practices. Two major recalls within a period of two years is a serious issue that should be analyzed carefully (Nunez, 2016). This is the case because such recalls might affect the performance and profitability of the company in the future. The corporation’s culture might have been ineffective thus creating new rooms for errors.

The term internal services “describes the managerial approaches embraced in order to ensure the activities within a large organization are executed in a professional manner” (Watson, 2012, p. 74). The case of GM indicates that some of its internal services are characterized by a wide range of problems. Consequently, the inefficiencies associated with such internal services must have led to the issues affecting the company (General Motors, 2016). The financial implications of such recalls cannot be underestimated. This fact explains why GM has continued to lose its profits. Nunez (2016) indicates that such issues might have long-term implications on the company’s business performance and discourage more customers from purchasing its automobiles.

The occurrence of these challenges at GM should be a wakeup call in order to implement new approaches that can make a significant difference. The ultimate goal of every organization is to maximize profits and ensure the diverse needs of the targeted customers are addressed in a timely manner. If GM continues to record similar problems, chances are high that it will lose its competitive edge and become less profitable. Many giant companies in the industry are focusing on the best initiatives to produce superior products. The vehicles should be able to satisfy the diverse needs of targeted customers (Kumar, Kumar, Haleem, & Gahlot, 2013). These recalls show conclusively that something is wrong in GM’s internal services. That being the case, a new approach to lean has the potential to support the firm’s business model.

Applying a Continuous Lean Improvement Application at GM

Giant corporations such as GM are usually characterized by a wide range of internal services. Such services should be carefully coordinated and monitored in order to add value and make the firm successful. Some of these services include procurement, supply chain, accounting, engineering, and marketing. These internal processes should be carefully monitored and managed if the company is to deliver quality products to the targeted customers (Kumar et al., 2013). The above recalls explaining why new strategies are needed to ensure GM’s final products do not have similar defects.

The principles of lean production can make a significant difference for this company. To begin with, the recalls should be carefully analyzed in order to understand the major gaps affecting the firm’s production process. The strategy will ensure the diverse needs of the targeted customers are clearly understood (General Motors, 2016). Consequently, the manufacturing processes embraced by GM will focus on new approaches that can add value to the consumers. The ultimate goal of the manufacturing process should be to support the needs of the targeted clients (Watson, 2012).

After identifying the major gaps responsible for the defects, the company “should focus on the value stream” (Featherston, 2014, p. 14). This phase of the lean process is useful because it identifies the major issues contributing to the defects. The phase is widely used by firms to monitor the sources of defects and wastes (Watson, 2012). Competent individuals at the corporation should use their skills to understand the sources of the defects. The wastes and malpractices associated with the manufacturing process will be identified during this second phase. The gathered data will be used to monitor the duties and responsibilities of different departments. The phase will ensure different processes and activities are improved accordingly.

The third phase of the lean process will be used to minimize or remove wastes. During this phase, the managers and leaders at the firm will identify specific areas that must be improved (Featherston, 2014). They will also align different internal services in order to support the production process. The concept of pull should be taken seriously in an attempt to implement new practices that have the potential to drive performance.

Since GM has recorded several problems within the past two years, it will be appropriate for the management to focus on the best practices that can support a new change. It is agreeable that the ineffectiveness of different workers and systems at the firm must have led to the above defects. This fact explains why a new organizational change will transform the existing culture. The approach will also present new processes that can address the challenges affecting the company. The managers should “work tirelessly to set a new industry standard for excellence, safety, and quality” (Watson, 2012, p. 3). By so doing, the employees will be empowered and guided to focus on the most desirable outcomes.

The third phase of the lean approach will ensure the concept of transparency is developed at the company. This means that reluctant and underperforming employees will be empowered accordingly. Different services such as accounting will be used to support the manufacturing process at the company (Featherston, 2014). All the internal services will be aligned in such a way that they minimize wastes and improve the level of performance.

The leaders should focus on the best approaches in an attempt to develop high-performance teams (Featherston, 2014). Such teams should be characterized by quality leadership. The right people should be hired to support various practices and ensure every vehicle supports the company’s business strategy. This long-term approach will ensure the workers support specific concepts such as quality and excellence. Individuals and professionals should be empowered to embrace the idea of accountability. The workforce should be guided and empowered to deliver positive results (Watson, 2012). This approach will play a positive role in dealing with the defects and wastes associated with GM’s manufacturing process.

Finally, the suggested lean process should become a critical aspect of the company. The stages of lean should be repeated continuously in order to identify defects frequently. Constant improvements will be considered throughout the manufacturing process (Kumar et al., 2013). The final products will be sampled and tested in order to ensure they fulfill the requirements set by the company. Such vehicles will eventually satisfy the needs of more clients.

Conclusion

General Motors has been focusing on the best strategies in order to remain profitable. This fact explains why the company should embrace the use of the lean improvement framework. When the concepts of lean are implemented in a professional manner, it will be possible for GM to produce superior vehicles and eventually drive performance (Watson, 2012). This analysis shows clearly that lean is a continuous improvement tool that has the potential to reduce wastes and promote performance. In conclusion, GM should use the lean concept in order to deal with the above issues.

References

Featherston, S. (2014). Study of reasons for the adoption of lean production in the automobile industry. Proceedings IGLC, 1(1), 11-21.

(2016). Web.

Kumar, N., Kumar, S., Haleem, A., & Gahlot, P. (2013). Implementing lean manufacturing system: ISM approach. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, 6(4), 996-1012.

Nunez, M. (2016). GIZMODO. Web.

Watson, G. (2012). Strategic benchmarking reloaded with Six Sigma. New York, NY: Wiley.

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