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Dawn Levy, News Service (650) 725-1944; e-mail:

General Motors to fund $3 million work systems lab at Stanford

General Motors will fund a $3 million research lab in the School of Engineering at Stanford University for three years to study "work systems" ­ the way people use materials and information to make products and services.

"People go to work every day and use their know-how, information and tools to produce products and services," said Larry Burns, vice president of GM Research & Development and Planning. "With the convergence of the Internet, information technology and math-based tools, there are tremendous opportunities to develop new work systems that produce higher quality products and services at faster speed and with greater productivity than is possible using current work processes."

Burns noted, "The core of this is information technology. As the focus of our work shifts from atoms to bits, we're going from manipulating physical things like steel and aluminum to working with sophisticated virtual models. Stanford is at the heart of much of this new technology."

"The Department of Management Science and Engineering is honored to host the new lab," said its chair, Professor Elisabeth Paté-Cornell. "The department's mission is to develop knowledge, tools and technologies for decision making, strategic planning, organizational design, information systems and operations management."

Professor Arthur Veinott, a co-director of the new lab, added, "Our students and faculty are excited about the opportunity to work with GM engineers and scientists to create ideas and technologies that may help to shape the development of work systems in the 21st century."

The work systems lab will focus on creating new ways to use the latest information-based tools and methods to develop and produce products, create new services, integrate the supply chain, communicate with customers and choose enterprise strategies. The lab is expected to involve about 20 faculty.

"We have targeted improved work systems as one of our key strategic technologies," said Gary McDonald, director of the Enterprise Systems Lab at GM's Research & Development Center in Warren, Mich., and co-director of the new lab. "We can leverage our experience and the resources we have by collaborating with Stanford in this area. We expect that the research of their students and faculty will help us to develop ways to improve GM's future work systems."

According to Burns, "Innovation networks, such as this partnership, will function as incubators for new ideas. The fastest way to deliver innovation to market is to work together."

GM has established similar labs in other fields at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Jiaotong University in Shanghai, China.


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