General Motors Company (GM) Says New $130 Million Data Center Will Help Prevent Large Recalls

Posted May 13, 2013

Today General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) announced that they are building a new $130 million enterprise data center in Warren, Michigan.  The facility will have 5,040 square feet of space, 48 work stations, and a 955-square foot video wall with 28 configurable screens.  The facility will be designed to monitor the use of data across their operations.  The data center will be able to handle computer simulations on vehicle design, fuel economy, quality, and safety.

“Having a single nerve center for our global operations will get newer vehicle designs and technologies into our customers’ hands quicker and improve the bottom line,” stated GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson . “IT is back home where it should be, and it further drives unnecessary complexity from our businesses while improving our operational efficiency and better supporting our business strategy.”

This will be the first out of two data centers that will be the “computing backbone” for the company’s operations.  GM is planning to consolidate 23 data centers and 3 information technology suppliers around the world into two facilities by 2015.  GM said that the data centers at Facebook and Google were benchmarked when drawing up the plans for the data centers.

GM’s other data center is a $100 million project that will be opened in Milford, Michigan.  The two data centers are within about 40 miles of each other so that their data will be “mirrored” just in case one goes offline.  GM is also spending another $158 million on each center for the equipment.  Even though GM is dealing with additional capital and personnel costs, they will be able to save money by eliminating the cost of paying outside technology vendors.

The new supercomputing data center will help limit the size of future safety recalls.  In the past, GM’s regional operations tracked problems on their own without aggressively communicating even though many of their cars are now sold worldwide.  Engineers in one region would check a problem part, but it was not studied worldwide in early stages.  Since new software is being developed by GM’s innovation storage, problems will be spotted quickly as they crop up around the world.

The data centers will enable the company to watch their factories for production and parts supply issues.  They can also perform accurate virtual crash tests, save costs, and speed up new products to market.  GM will be able to analyze data and monitor sales trends at the data centers along with the ability to research new markets for their vehicles.

The new data centers helps develop new crash-test simulations to cut down on the number of physical crash tests that are needed.  This saves GM around $350,000 per test.

GM sells over 9 million vehicles worldwide every year and many of the parts are common worldwide.  If there is a recall, it can be costly and large.  When problems are spotted and fixed early, the cost will be much lower.

As a former telecommunications executive, GM CEO Dan Akerson is pushing for the information consolidation.  He believes that it is important for companies to have their own information technology centers rather than outsourcing it to other companies.  At one point, GM outsourced 85% of their software development and computer technology.

GM is employing around 9,000 people for their four U.S. “innovation centers” and is bringing 90% of the work in-house within the next 5 years.  Around 5,500 people have moved into the company’s technology centers in Warren, Michigan; Austin, Texas; Roswell, Georgia; and Chandler, Arizona.

Below is an infographic detailing the new data center (click on the image to enlarge it):