General Motors South Africa: Simulated Work Environment


In the early 1990’s different manufacturing systems were used at GM plants around the world resulting in manufacturing and quality inconsistencies. To negate this a decision was taken to standardise production systems throughout the GM production network.

To do this GM amalgamated the best practices from the various systems and called this new system the Global Manufacturing System or GMS for short.

The logo of GMS is symbolic of the process, as all the principles must be implemented together, or otherwise, like an atom, it will change its state and turn into something else. A key element of GMS is Simulated Work Environment training.

The first Simulated Work Environment was developed at GM’s Lansing Grand River facility to train new employees in GMS before they joined their GMS compliant plant.  When this proved to be a great success, GM decided to establish the same environment at all of its major production operations.

The layout and structure of all the facilities are common as well as the processes and concepts applied in the training. GM South Africa’s facility was opened on the 1st of December 2004 and since then another 19 around the world have opened.

The main purpose of the Simulated Work Environment is to teach employees how GMS should work in the plant.  This is done by using a simulation of a production line and assembly processes. The goals of the training focuses on delivering results in “Safety”, “Quality”, “Continuous Improvement” and “Productivity Improvements”.

There are no resources allocated directly to the SWE. It is run solely by volunteer facilitators.

Since its opening, 73 Facilitators from across GMSA have been trained in SWE in Port Elizabeth.

A total of 239 training sessions have been conducted with 4 063 employees from all areas of production processed through the system.  A large portion of new employees are required to go through SWE training before they are allowed to begin working in the plant. SWE training is a fundamental element of the HUMMER H3 export project.