ML 100 Awards
gm.pngVirtual walk-throughs allow GM “to review the entire plant and understand exactly what is going to be installed.” —Mark Pajakowski, General Assembly Layout & Installation Group





Driving its operations toward the digital factory, GM uses 3D simulation to build the most effective work cells.

General Motors has experienced a few bumps in the road over the past few years, but nothing will stop this automotive giant from speeding down a path that leads straight to the digital factory.

Specifically, GM is using 3D technology to see what the actual work cell will look like prior to building it out, thus accelerating production time, improving quality, and saving money.

Any time there is a change to a vehicle model, the factory’s work cells must also change to accommodate the new design and production processes. Using Autodesk technology, the company has been able to simulate the layout and flow of processes prior to commissioning.

GM has seen savings from reducing expensive work cell retrofits. Using visualization, the company went from 89 such retrofits to 29. In one project, the company dealt with 60 fewer retrofits, saving GM almost $1 million.

The automaker’s use of 3D modeling and visualization technology to cut costs, improve efficiency, and accelerate time-to-market won the company a PM100 Award for Innovation Mastery.

Steve Schuchard, GM’s supervisor of CAD technology, oversees a CAD technology group that works closely with GM engineers who design work cells for specific production tasks. The engineers will sit with a CAD expert to refine and adjust the work cell processes—from an industrial engineer wanting to ensure that an operator has the correct walking distance between tasks, to a mechanical engineer working on correct tool placement.

As the technology group works through the processes and continually refines them, the software allows the group to do a virtual “fly-through” of the plant to review the designs with engineers, safety and plant staff, and the CAD specialist doing the actual drafting. When all is said and done, they have a simulation of a work cell and a set of drawings that explain to contractors how to install the cell.

This is the most critical phase of the program, notes Mark Pajakowski, GM’s supervisor for the General Assembly Layout & Installation Group, as errors create additional cost. Virtual walk-throughs, he says, allow GM “to review the entire plant and understand exactly what is going to be installed, and make corrections before the first component is purchased. This saves General Motors time, money, and allows us to focus on producing great cars and trucks.”