Wednesday, May 05, 2010

GM up to its old tricks?

I can read a lot into this headline:

Can you?

If you are familiar with GM and the buying strategies they have used in the past, then this is not a surprise. The automaker is looking to have a list of pre-approved resins – worldwide at that – from which they will allow their parts to be made.

From the company’s perspective, they claim they will gain many advantages:
  • worldwide coordination of supplies
  • common shrinkage to control tolerances (?!?!)
  • faster design of new parts

  • Here’s my thoughts on these three ideas:
  • Since GM will be buying larger quantities of fewer materials, they will be able to exert even more price pressure on the suppliers. And since the suppliers will really want their resins to continue to be on the approved list, it will be significant pressure. Same old same old.
  • What drugs are they taking? This is absolutely insane. Amorphous plastics inherently – meaning that it is a fundamental physical property – shrink less than crystalline polymers. Crystals are more densely packed than glasses, so the same mass of a crystalline plastic will occupy less space than an amorphous, glassy material, so there will always be differences in shrinkage.
  • You can design the parts as fast as you want, the testing of the parts will determine the viability. Some of the testing can be simulated (tensile testing) but no computer model will be able to tell you the survivability of a plastic exposed to hot oil or antifreeze or brake fluid. These are the real world simulations that are needed to ensure product durability, not something that can be run on a FEA model.

  • Having worked in a large corporation that also tried to cut down on the number of raw materials it was using, I predict that the list will quickly fail. Some designer will need a resin, and find that some resin not on the list will work and will work at a lower cost than some resin on the list. While the approved resin will initially be used, a period of cost-cutting will quickly follow and the alternate resin will get added to the list. And so the list will grow.

    At the end of the day, the only thing left from the wish list above will be the somewhat improved purchasing power of GM, something that they have been known for for decades. Bankruptcy has not changed their modus operandi.

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