Besides using ostrich feathers to deliver a high quality paint job, GM assembly plants also use various tools to ensure world-class product quality. These tools typically go mostly unnoticed, despite their importance to GM quality standards. One such tool is the gap stick, which helps ensure uniform body panel fitment on all vehicles before they leave the plant.
GM plant employees receive extensive training on the flushness and ideal fitment of body panels, as per GM quality standards. To guarantee that vehicles meet tight the standards, employees use a tool called the gap stick to validate the spacing between the body panels of vehicles coming off the line, ensuring consistency and uniformity along each panel of the vehicle’s body.
Gap sticks are made from plastic to prevent scratches to a vehicle’s exterior paint. The tool is used frequently throughout the assembly process, and along several areas. Throughout the build process, gap sticks measure approximately 50 fits and flushness points on the vehicle’s body, with every part from the front fascia and hood to the rear fascia and spoiler are checked for quality and uniform fitment.
At the Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Detroit – which GM is scheduled to idle later in 2019 – quality inspectors take gap measurements in about 60 seconds, enabling them to inspect and document the findings of 45 vehicles per hour.
There are nearly 4,000 employees at the GM’s Ft. Wayne Assembly Plant, where the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks are built. Each quality engineer averages a minimum of 20 hours of on-the-job and classroom training, with the amount of training required and received depending on the difficulty of the task. The plant’s Quality Department has a team of more than 250 people on three revolving shifts responsible for conducting several detailed tests and standardized inspections on every vehicle produced at the facility.
The GM Authority Take
We commend GM for using technologies and implementing processes – such as as the gap stick – to improve the ultimate quality of its product. The results, however, have varied – with GM improving in quality and reliability ratings in some years, while faltering in others.
Even so, it’s really quite amazing when once considers all the people, steps, and tools involved in making just one vehicle, let alone hundreds of thousands and, ultimately, millions units.