General Motors: A Gilson Case Study

General Motors is the world’s largest automaker. It was founded in 1908 and shortly thereafter became the industry’s annual global sales leader — the title it still holds today, in the face of fiercer-than-ever competition. With global headquarters in Detroit, General Motors manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries.

General Motors


In the U.S., GM sells its vehicles through a nationwide network of roughly 8,000 dealers. The company supports dealer sales efforts in a myriad of ways — from high-profile television advertising to glossy four-color brochures. But the crux of the GM-dealer relationship is contained in a Policies & Procedures Manual. This manual spells out everything from service standards and training requirements to claims processes and warranty specifics.

General Motors and Conventional Fulfillment

For years, the manual was printed onto individual pages and assembled into binders for shipping to dealers. By the late ’90s, the volume of information included had increased to the point that it strained the confines of a three-inch binder.

This conventional fulfillment and distribution system posed a number of problems, including:

  • As size increased, shipping costs escalated.
  • Additional copies and replacement copies were ordered via phone by individual dealer personnel – there were no means to control distribution.
  • Changes were cumbersome. Shipping new binders every time a revision was made would be prohibitively costly, so individual pages were printed and sent to dealers with instructions to replace outdated pages. There was no way to monitor dealer compliance.
  • The reams of paper required to print the manual each year didn’t jibe with GM’s very public commitment to environmental sensitivity.

Gilson’s Solution

Gilson, which had been handling the printing and fulfillment of these manuals, approached GM with an alternative: we proposed to assemble manuals in pdf format and distribute them to dealers on CD-ROM. GM agreed to the move — and immediately cut its program costs by 50%.

Several years later, we took advantage of increased Internet delivery speed and our own Mindwire technology to make the program even more efficient. We constructed a stand-alone website that contains the entire manual — one web page for each manual page – and gave GM dealers secure access to it. Now, approved dealer personnel can download and print all or part of the manual at any time. Change notifications are sent via email, and GM can monitor whether revised pages have been downloaded.

The Results

In addition to streamlining delivery, we developed a new workflow for assembling, editing and finalizing the manual. Creating content is the responsibility of 35 GM “Subject Matter Experts” located around the country. We’ve empowered them to share information and complete their work online. It’s a faster, more efficient, more accurate method.

GM is so pleased with the results, they’re exploring new ways to use our fulfillment and distribution technology throughout the corporation.