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By 袁春凤 (Tiffany)
"Downsizing Wave" Frequently Occurs in Winter for Big Car Enterprises
GM: Closing 7 factories and laying off 15,000 workers
In the cold wave of the car market, GM adopted a strategy similar to Ford's, namely, closing factories and laying off employees.
On November 26, General Motors said it would cut production of unsalable models and lay off North American employees as the car market shrank. According to foreign media reports, GM will lay off 15% of its employees by the end of next year, involving nearly 15,000 people, including 25% of its executives. At the same time, GM will close seven production bases around the world, involving three plants in Osawa, Ontario, Canada, Detroit, Ohio, and Warren.
GM's plans to cut jobs and close factories have provoked outrage from President Trump and even threatened to cancel GM's subsidies for electric vehicles. However, in the biggest restructuring in the last decade, GM CEO Mary Bola has shown considerable reform determination.
In fact, as the first female CEO in GM's history, Mary Bola has been trying to build a "fortress" financial structure for GM. From selling Opel out of the European market, to exiting South Africa, East Africa, India and South Korea market one after another, to investing in emerging areas such as self-driving and mobile travel, GM, led by Bora, has contracted its global business scope and rapidly moved towards emerging industries and forward-looking markets.
Today, GM's financial performance in North America and China continues to be good, especially in the Chinese market, GM's investment returns continue to hit record highs.
Even so, GM, which is increasingly sensitive to the market and has a sense of crisis, has not been pursuing the expansion of its size in the global market, but has put streamlining its business and reducing its costs first.
Compared with Ford being forced to lay off employees and shut down its car business because of its financial crisis, GM's approach is more like an initiative before the crisis.
With the coming storm, it may be beneficial to prepare for self-protection in response to the cruel market.
In a push to add alternative-fuel vehicles to its global product offerings, General Motors Co. announced on Tuesday that it will be using 3D-printed parts to achieve its goals, according to Reuters.
GM's 3D Auto Parts Initiative
The leading U.S.-based automobile manufacturer said it is working closely with the leading design software company Autodesk Inc. to print lightweight auto parts using 3D printing technology. This week, company executives demonstrated a 3D-printed seat bracket made of stainless steel and developed with the Autodesk technology. Using regular manufacturing methods, the seat bracket would need around eight different components and several suppliers. When designed with the help of the new technology, it consisted of a single part. It also turned out to be 20 percent stronger and 40 percent lighter. It looked like “a mix between abstract art and science fiction movie.” Along with reducing tooling cost and material waste, it will also help reduce the number of suppliers required by GM.
GM has used 3D printers for prototyping parts for last many years. Over the next year, it believes that the new 3D-printed parts will appear in high-end motorsports applications, and over the next five years it plans to scale up to produce “tens of thousands of parts at scale as the technology improves,” Kevin Quinn, the automaker’s director of additive design and manufacturing, told Reuters.
The 3D-printing based manufacturing industry is working toward mass production and trying to address issues with “repeatability and robustness,” said Bob Yancey, Autodesk’s director of manufacturing. Autodesk has expertise in exploring different variations of a part design using the cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithms.
The leading automaker announced last year it plans to launch 20 new electric and fuel cell models globally by the year 2023. Though electric and battery operated vehicles have seen increasing interest, their mass adoption has been restricted due to their limited range. Lightweight parts could help keep the vehicles lighter and thereby more fuel efficient.
Promising 3D Printing Technology
3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, works by piling up only the required amount of liquefied material, tier by tier. It helps in drastically reducing waste as only the required amount is added, and is in contrast with the conventional subtractive approach where the process involves starting with a large block of material and chipping it away till required shape and size is achieved. (See also, How the 3D-Printing Industry Evolved in 2016.)
GM is not alone in adapting to the promising technology initiative. Earlier, General Electric Co said it would increase the use of 3D printers in its manufacturing processes, while Ford Motor Co. has been testing the 3D printing technology since last year. (For more, see Ford Tests 3D Printing for Parts.)