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Gm Troubles - Does The Auto Industry Not Have "sms"?

Don Hudson

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I used to drive GM cars, but switched to Japanese and then German vehicles twenty years ago. This story hadn't broken of course but for me the comparison between manufacturers drove the decision.

A number of issues here...shooting messengers, dismissing the notion of "moral authority" when safety issues are reported by employees because it is "not in their job description", (so say the lawyers for GM), the conduct of this corporation in the face of taxpayer bailouts...

In terms of denying an employee the right to report something that they feel is unsafe and could cause harm or fatalities, SMS in the aviation industry looks after that because under SMS, reporting an unsafe condition, procedure or event is in every employee's job description.

I wonder why SMS isn't practised in the auto industry? I wonder why employees can't respond to safety issues without having their livelihood quietly threatened? Shouldn't everyone have the right to speak out if commercial decisions are being made which displace safety concerns? That's a huge part of what SMS is in the aviation industry and it works, without breaking the corporate bank. And this, after taxpayers bailed this company out.

When given time and support for examination and investigations, some media do a reasonable job:

GM Recalls: How General Motors Silenced a Whistle-Blower

By Tim Higgins and Nick Summers June 18, 2014, Bloomberg News

It was close to 3 a.m. on June 6 when Courtland Kelley burst into his bedroom, startling his wife awake. General Motors (GM), Kelley’s employer for more than 30 years, had just released the results of an investigation into how a flawed ignition switch in the Chevrolet Cobalt could easily slip into the “off” position—cutting power, stalling the engine, and disabling airbags just when they’re needed most. The part has been linked to at least 13 deaths and 54 crashes. GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, summoned before Congress in April to answer for the crisis, repeatedly declined to answer lawmakers’ questions before she had the company’s inquest in hand. Now it was out, and Kelley had stayed up to read all 325 pages on a laptop on the back porch of his rural home about 90 miles northwest of Detroit.

The “Valukas Report,” named for former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, who assembled it at GM’s request from interviews with 230 witnesses and 41 million documents, blamed a culture of complacency for the more than decade-long delay before the company recalled millions of faulty vehicles. It described employees passing the buck and committees falling back on the “GM nod”—when everyone in a meeting agrees that something should happen, and no one actually does it. On page 93, a GM safety inspector named Steven Oakley is quoted telling investigators that he was too afraid to insist on safety concerns with the Cobalt after seeing his predecessor “pushed out of the job for doing just that.” Reading the passage, Kelley felt like he’d been punched in the gut. The predecessor Oakley was talking about was Kelley.

From the article:


GM..."the Numbers":

Anton Valukas tells Congress there's no coverup at GM
CEO Mary Barra faces more grilling from politicians over company's ignition switch fault

CBC News

Posted: Jun 18, 2014 8:39 AM ET Last Updated: Jun 18, 2014 3:39 PM ET

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A buddy of mine has an anonymous employee ethics web based reporting system that is in use by many Canadian corps... and most major ones, including AC, and a lot of U.S. corps. As soon as I heard some of Barra's testimony, I texted him to get hold of someone at GM. None of this would have happened if employees had anonymous access to the Board of Directors.

BTW, after many years of struggling, my buddy is now a very rich man.... wish I had thought of it.

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Many parts of the auto industry (manufacturers and suppliers) have adopted the Japanese Kaisan QA system. A large part of it relies on employee reports of problems and suggestions for improvement. But the employees of some of them will tell you that management will only accept employee suggestions that don't cost money. Sound familiar?

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