21 November 2017

GM Colmotores: Excellence in manufacturing, sales and after-sales

Mateo Rafael Tablado
7 min
Chevrolet is the preferred and leading brand in Colombia thanks to the outstanding work of GM Colmotores, a production, logistics, distribution and afte...

GM Colmotores, a subsidiary of General Motors Company in Colombia, boasts 60 years of experience, throughout which it has strengthened its vehicle manufacturing, distribution and sales operations. Colmotores is not only lauded a forerunner in vehicle assembly operations, but is today the acclaimed leader in vehicle body manufacturing.

Colmotores operations reached a major milestone thanks to its Free Economic Zone (FEZ) designation in 2012. This launched a new stage for Colombia’s vehicle manufacture.

Embracing GM company guidelines, adopted in more than 30 countries throughout five continents, has also boosted the Colombian operation for the guidelines provide models to refer to: the equally competitive GM operations in India and Mexico.

"Colmotores has improved its level of competitiveness, quality and supplier relationships, but we are currently especially competitive locally," says Rodrigo Godinho, Vice President and Director of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain (GPSC) for General Motors, Colombia and Ecuador.

Godinho is a mechanical engineer who graduated from the University of Sao Paulo, where he also acquired a Masters in Quality Management. Notably, he continuously sharpens his exceptional leadership skills at institutions such as Harvard. The Brazilian executive has experience in supplier development, worked for the US corporation as an accessories and spare gears purchaser, and been involved in projects within Brazil as well as abroad – namely the launch of the highly successful Chevrolet Onix – after which he led projects under the title of Vice President for Colombia and Ecuador.

Excellence in manufacturing, sales and after-sales

Thanks to strong support at the industrial level, as well as dedicated (and creative) efforts to get the product to where it should be, GM Colmotores offers a wide range of vehicles for all purposes. The Chevrolet Spark (Life and GT), Sail, domestically manufactured buses and trucks, the Onix, Sonic, Cruze, the sporty Camaro and comfortable and practical trucks such as the Trailblazer, Tracker, Captiva, Traverse and Tahoe are but a few of the vehicles GM Colmotores has to offer. A network of 29 dealers across the country paired with colossal distribution efforts have made these vehicles available to Colombian drivers.

Likewise, many of the country's leading companies trust GM Colmotores buses and trucks, as well as vehicles, to make up the bulk (if not all) of their fleet – proof that Chevrolet is a recognized reliable partner.

The manufacturing process, including stamping, was implemented in recent years and transformed the company from an assembly plant into the country's only automaker. Today, the company manufactures the components it once had to import from abroad. Interestingly, and perhaps serendipitously, the limited availability of automation suppliers resulted in having to train a group of employees to become specialized in robotic integration for the production processes. Under an initiative developed in 2011, today, 30 robots have been integrated into the assembly as well as the car body welding lines.

"These are advances that allow us to maintain a competitive edge. The milestones reached here have repositioned the brand and today we are Colombia's manufacturer of choice," says Juan Carlos Landázuri, Vice President of Manufacturing and Quality for GM Colmotores.

Originally from Ecuador, Landázuri is a mechanical engineer who graduated from the Tecnológico de Monterrey (Monterrey Technological Institute) in Mexico, and also holds a degree in Business Administration from Ecuador's IDE Business School. Landázuri has been with GM for 17 years now, perfecting his efforts at four of its production plants: one in Ecuador, two in Brazil, and, for the past year, as Manufacturing and Quality Operations Director at Colmotores. In 2015, following the implementation of an energy management system, work that was carried out in conjunction with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Landázuri was invited to present this program to a forum in Vienna, prior to a world leaders' summit on climate change in Paris. 

Top-level technology in each vehicle

All GM Colmotores vehicles boast the latest technological advances. Most of these technological developments focus on driver safety, meaning accident prevention, no matter how small they may be. Blind spot warning, front distance control, reverse camera, automatic and semiautomatic perpendicular or parallel parking assistance and automatic light changes are just some of the features offered by the latest vehicles.

For its part, the ChevyStar system, an innovative remote diagnostics system for vehicles, will be, among others, a preventative security and sustainable mobility solution for the country, as it contributes to the development of smart cities. Now in its eighth generation, it relies on small sensors located in various parts of the vehicle so that it is able to provide service maintenance notifications, report tire inflation volume, fault codes and other diagnostic.

"ChevyStar is something we are proud of. We have pioneered this type of support system," declares Landázuri. 

Logistics: a solution for every challenge

GM Colmotores's logistics department, headed by Godinho, counts on different methods in order to complete each task and to generate efficiencies, resulting, on average, in a 30 percent cost reduction over the last two years.

The factory has its own transportation operators that handle inbound logistics and use a single provider for outbound logistics. In other words, vehicles are distributed to the dealer network in such a way that external conditions such as a driver's strike would hardly affect Colmotores's operations.

"Logistics can be quite challenging in Colombia. The government has worked hard to improve its infrastructure, creating alternate roads such as the 4G highways. To improve competitiveness, multimodal logistics, including the train and the Magdalena River, would perhaps be a good alternative with an interesting future," Godinho points out.

Qualified suppliers

GM Colmotores has an excellent network of suppliers, able to comply with the company's strict guidelines and requirements. Suppliers develop new components quickly and efficiently and are open to the company's suggestions and recommendations. Working openly has made it possible to locate many supplies at competitive costs without sacrificing quality.

All suppliers are evaluated by a team of quality engineers to ensure that they are aligned with Colmotores's expectations. Yearly supplier reassessments guarantee that QSB (Quality Systems Basics), ISO and other such internal certifications pertaining to each operation are maintained.

"We work transparently and communicate clearly. To us, this is key. Our suppliers feel comfortable, and we with them," says Godinho.

GM's global support and Colmotores's contribution

Working for an auto giant like GM means that Colmotores operates under a set of tried and true standards and guidelines. There is also an openness to share experiences with other subsidiaries in the area. Colmotores primarily reports to GM Brazil, South America's headquarters, and subsequently to the global office.

The Brazil office receives the corporation's support and best practices. As a result, its production volume is now the third largest in the world. It boasts a 25 percent local market share, placing it among the brands with the highest local market share in the automotive industry and making it a major global contributor for GM.

Development and preparation of the workforce

GM Colmotores offers virtual training, classroom training, and considerable backing from General Motors University.

One of Colmotores's greatest responsibilities is maintaining employee satisfaction so as to prevent turnaround. Surveys reveal an 89 percent employee satisfaction rate.

"We work hard so that in-house talents choose to stay and make important contributions," adds Godinho.

Sustainability policies and social action

Colmotores is certified as being environmentally responsible. Efforts to ensure its efficient operation include sound savings programs and efficient use of water and energy. Colmotores is a benchmark in the region in terms of energy consumption per unit produced, and places second in lowest water consumption. Moreover, since 2014 its operation is certified 'landfill free', which means it does not generate waste that goes to landfills thanks to strict re-use and recycling programs.

Additionally, through the Chevrolet Foundation, Colmotores pursues various social initiatives that support improving the quality of life for vulnerable communities, and promotes sustainable mobility programs and employability.

"We hope that all these programs make a significant contribution to reducing carbon footprint," Landazuri concludes.

Excellent results with regards to exploration

GM Colmotores plans to continue growing in 2017 given the opportunities Colombia's automotive industry has to offer. The work done so far has managed to catapult Colmotores among GM's major plants based on manufacturing quality.

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