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Virtual engineering at General Motors

John Day

John Day

Posted Oct 29, 2010

I was glad to read Consumer Reports’ encouraging words about General Motors. CR said GM has improved considerably in the research firm’s latest new car predicted-reliability ratings, and 83 percent of Chevrolets now have average or better scores. That’s up from 50 percent last year. Overall, 69 percent of GM models had average or better reliability.

The results give Sheila Sarver reason to smile, albeit briefly. As GM’s executive director of global validation, she has responsibility for vehicle quality, reliability, and durability. “The initiatives we have been putting in place have started to pay off,” she says.

Members of Sarver’s team support vehicle design by gathering and assessing customer usage requirements data in every corner of the world. Once the design has been developed, her team sets reliability targets for every component and determines how those targets can be met.

“Once our design validation is completed we move into product validation, which takes manufacturing variation into account, and from there into vehicle validation. We depend on a network of proving grounds and test engineers around the world, and this is our opportunity to understand interface and integration issues, taking into account the worst case usage customer,” she says.

“We can’t wait until a problem surfaces, so we focus on prevention, and to do that we are making more use of math tools,” Sarver adds. “We’ve increased our use of CAE tools for analysis, virtual build, virtual assessment, and virtual review. Learn as much as we can in a virtual environment helps us reduce the number of builds, and to get to testing faster. As we collect more usage data, we learn more about what the standard load cases need to be.”

Sarver says virtual engineering workflow and virtual assessment are key to GM’s ability to bring products to market faster. “It extends throughout our vehicle development process, from definition of requirements to design evaluation through assessment of failed parts,” she says.

Consumer Reports, General Motors, CAE tools, virtual assessment, virtual engineering workflow

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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