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General Motors to launch world's largest VSAT network.

The world's largest automaker, General Motors, is launching the world's largest privately owned satellite network.

Pulsat, as the network is known, will be the information link between GM's corporate headquarters, its 10,000 dealer showrooms, and its wholesale operations.

The video-teleconferencing system will allow GM to take face-to-face meetings, promotional literature, sales and service training, and marketing presentations anywhere a car dealer has a satellite dish.

"Communicating pictorially is more economical and more effective," maintains Tom Schreitmueller, leader of the GM team that designed the Pulsat network.

"It becomes both the medium and the message."

Eventually, the network will link all of GM's U.S. dealers who serve the 5 million people who buy GM cars and trucks each year and the 75 million existing owners of General Motors products.

"Leadership in telecomm technology may provide the edge needed for industrial technology into the 21st century," Schreitmueller says.

Key suppliers for the network are Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Network Systems Inc., both subsidiaries of GM

Schreitmueller's job was not an easy one. He was faced with building a team, but at the same time keeping ahead of change in the dynamic auto market and in communications technology. Baud rates were expanding, protocols were changing.

In short, he had to figure a way to use today's technology while keeping tomorrow in mind.

If that weren't enough, he had to keep in mind customer service, while meeting his fiscal responsibility to shareholders.

Laying Groundwork

Before the Pulsat Network was started, Schreitmueller's team called in about a dozen dealers and eight suppliers to critique the program. Once the project got rolling, there were 21 groups which had to be kept informed of progress at every step.

This allowed all the divisions, dealers, and suppliers to "buy into" the program as it grew.

Up-and-down communication like that has been quite unusual in the auto industry. In the past, when a new car line was introduced, for example, dealers are called together and told: Here it is. How many do you want? That now is changing.

Pulsat project management used a different approach. Dealers and divisional people were asked what they'd like to see in a communications system and were allowed to preview possible uses of the network.

Pulsat's home is a GM hub near Detroit. It exchanges data via satellite to all members of the network.

Each member of the network gets a digital interface unit, dish, and integrated receiver/decoder for the leadership.

Since GM has end-to-end ownership, it is able to stabilize telecommunications costs while still getting impressive response time.

Future Plans

In addition to current divisional communications and training uses, eventually Pulsat should be able to help GM with inventory control. It means dealer-managers will spend less time in meetings away from the sales floor. In addition, GMAC, the credit arm of the corporation, will be able to get faster financial information turnaround. That pleases dealers, since they can get fast credit approval.

Eventually, the network will be able to support non-GM suppliers and dealers.

"The success of great ideas doesn't depend on how good the idea is," Schreitmueller says, "but on how well the idea is implemented."

His strategy included several objectives:

* Managing expectations. He wanted users to have an accurate vision of what the system would do.

* Consistency in communications. Everyone should have one source of information about Pulsat.

* Positive support, at every step of the project.

* Maximize voluntary adoption of the program. Pulsat had to be something a dealer wanted to buy into, not something forced down a dealer's throat.

In May 1990, General Motors went ahead with the project which is scheduled to be completed in late 1992. The kickoff was followed by a quarterly newsletter, an orientation kit, and a request for an order from the dealer.

A hot line was established to provide one point for dealer questions.

All of this was done before the first dealer was put on line. Once dealers got acquainted with the program, response was fast and positive.

John Rogin, of John Rogin Buick in Wayne, Michigan, isn't referring to cars when he says, "This is the greatest new model to come along.

"It is going to make you money and it is not just a 1991 model. It's a 2010 and 2020 model, beyond."

That's exactly the reaction Schreitmueller and his team hoped for.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Satellite Networks; very-small-aperture-terminal
Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1991
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