General Motors Corp. says it has saved $100 million annually since 1998 by reducing the number of prototypes it needs in its product development processes.

By requiring fewer trial products, GM claims to have shortened its development cycle to an average of 20 to 25 months — from an average of 33 months in the late 1990s. GM defines this cycle from product data release to roll off of the first vehicle down the assembly line.

Tom Davis, group vice president-GM product development, doesn't buy into the argument that quality suffers with shorter development cycles and heavier reliance on computer modeling instead of physical testing.

GM also has reduced energy consumption at its North American facilities by 18% since 1995 and believes that savings will increase to 20% next year, a top company official tells WAW.

With costs for various energies — electricity, natural gas, etc. — on the rise, conservation efforts are saving considerable cash. Chief Environmental Officer Denny Minano estimates GM has saved $15 million annually through energy reduction and recycling efforts at one assembly plant in Orion, MI.

In 1995, facility energy use totaled about 110 trillion BTUs. GM is aiming for about 90 trillion BTUs in 2002.

At GM's Ft. Wayne, IN, pickup assembly plant, natural gas use was reduced, and in Linden, NJ, an energy efficient lighting system is reducing annual electric use at the Blazer/Jimmy/S-10/Sonoma assembly plant by 15 million kW/h per year.

Installation of strategic energy management systems in 17 facilities has been completed with annual savings of $4.7 million.