GM creates 'excellence' post, names new N.A. manufacturing head

Johnson -- a GM lifer -- started his career in 1980 at the company's Fisher Body Plant in Euclid, Ohio, and has held a number of positions in labor relations and stamping at several GM plants.
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DETROIT -- General Motors is moving North American manufacturing chief Gerald Johnson to a newly created "operational excellence" post reporting directly to CEO Mary Barra. He will be replaced by former labor negotiator Cathy Clegg, GM said.

Johnson, 51, will "focus on process discipline, improvement and waste elimination," GM spokesman Bill Grotz said on Monday. He will oversee the company's broader deployment of Design for Six Sigma, a business process used across industries to improve product quality and better meet customers' needs.

Johnson's new post was announced internally last week, GM said today.

GM has said all of its engineers will be certified at the highest level of Design for Six Sigma by the end of 2015, one of the steps the company is taking to improve safety in the wake of its ignition switch recall.

Clegg, 54, will become the third executive to serve as head of GM's North American factories in about one year.

Johnson also will serve on GM's executive operations committee, a group of about 20 of the company's top decision makers, mostly composed of Barra's direct reports.

Johnson has been the company’s North American manufacturing chief since July 2013, one of the busiest vehicle-launch periods in GM's history. He oversaw the rollout of GM's 2014 redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, the company's largest vehicle program and its first redesign of the trucks in seven years.

Clegg, left, and Wiese, right.

Johnson replaced Diana Tremblay, who became vice president of global business services, a group created last year under then-CEO Dan Akerson. Her unit was tasked with eliminating nearly $2 billion a year in administrative and other costs from areas such as facilities management.

Clegg will oversee more than 74,000 workers across 55 facilities in the United States, Mexico and Canada, from assembly and powertrain plants to stamping operations. Since early 2013, Clegg has been vice president of manufacturing engineering, overseeing automotive press, body, paint, assembly, controls and powertrain.

She will report to Jim DeLuca, who in January was named executive vice president of GM global manufacturing.

Clegg was GM's vice president of labor relations in 2011 during the negotiations for its current four-year UAW labor agreement, in which GM agreed to add jobs, increase wages for entry level workers and increase profit sharing.

Kurt Wiese, 58, replaces Clegg as vice president of global manufacturing engineering. He most recently was an executive director in global product development.

The changes take effect July 1.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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