by Sheila Ash
New jobs are coming to GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville over the next four years.
GE plans to invest $432 million to create four U.S. centers for design and manufacturing of refrigeration products. Appliance Park will receive $194 million and add 300 new jobs to produce bottom freezer refrigerators, the third new product line in the past year. The plant also makes the hybrid water heater and a new frontload washer and dryer.
GE’s Product General Manager for Refrigeration Paul Surowiec says the new products will meet the demand for new styles and efficiency.
The reality that we’re facing is the appliance business is no longer a white goods business. Consumers expect much more from us beyond the white boxes we produced of yesterday,” he says.
GE’s Bloomington, Indiana facility will receive 93 million dollars and create 200 new jobs. The other facilities will be in Selmer, Tennessee and Decatur, Alabama.
Details are in this news release from the company:
GE to Invest $432 Million, Create 500 Jobs, to Establish U.S. Centers of Excellence for Design and Manufacture of Refrigeration Products
LOUISVILLE, KY — October 18, 2010 — (NYSE:GE) — GE announced today it plans to invest $432 million to establish four U.S.-based refrigeration design and manufacturing centers of excellence and create 500 new “green” jobs by 2014, bringing the company’s total U.S. investment announced since 2009 to more than $1 billion and jobs created to 1,300. GE’s investment demonstrates the Company’s commitment to revitalize its appliances business and is the result of its U.S. factories becoming increasingly competitive globally.
“GE is committed to investing in this business and redefining what’s possible in home appliances,” said Charlene Begley, President and CEO, GE Home & Business Solutions, of which GE Appliances is a part. “With Lean manufacturing and advanced design, we believe that American workers can compete with any in the world. In addition, our employees and union leaders have agreed to innovative wage agreements that further increase the competitiveness of these plants.”
James P. Campbell, President and CEO of GE Appliances & Lighting, said, “Appliances is no longer a ‘white goods’ business. Customers increasingly expect styles, features, configurations and efficiency well beyond the white boxes of yesteryear. With this investment and the commitment of our employees, we will exceed customer expectations with outstanding products that are competitively made in the U.S. to serve the U.S. These moves will transform GE Appliances and are a tremendous win for GE, our employees and plant communities and American consumers.”
The new centers of excellence for refrigeration products will be located in Louisville, Ky.; Bloomington, Ind.; Decatur, Ala.; and Selmer, Tenn.
At its Louisville-based Appliance Park campus, GE will invest $194 million and create 300 jobs to establish a center of excellence for bottom-freezer refrigerators, a new product platform for that facility. The addition of the bottom-freezer models to the Louisville-made product lines marks the third new platform announced for that facility in the past year, following the GeoSpring™ Hybrid Water Heater and a new frontload washer and dryer.
The Bloomington facility, once slated for closure, will receive $93 million in investment and create 200 jobs to become GE’s center of excellence for side-by-side refrigerators. This investment in new models for the Bloomington plant is in addition to a $68 million investment in the plant’s current product lines that was announced on Oct. 1, bringing total investment in the Bloomington facility through 2014 to $161 million.
In Decatur, Ala., where GE’s popular top-freezer models are made, GE will invest $43 million to create a center of excellence for top-freezers and “green” manufacturing. This is in addition to a $16 million investment made earlier this year to transition to a new product insulation process. This total $59 million investment will help retain the more than 1,000 jobs at the site.
Monogram Refrigeration Operation, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of GE in Selmer, Tenn., will receive $32 million to redesign the built-in refrigeration line made there and to produce a new configuration for the high-end market, which will help retain the 166 jobs there.
With these investments, by 2014, GE will offer the highest percentage of U.S.-made refrigerators among full-line appliance makers.
Said Campbell, “This type of investment would have been impossible without the tremendous work underway at these plants to drive down costs and improve productivity and efficiency. With the new center of excellence model, the adoption of Lean manufacturing and agreements by employees and unions to freeze current wages and adopt competitive wage rates for new employees, these facilities are evidence of a growing American manufacturing renewal.”
The new refrigeration centers of excellence co-locate product design teams with manufacturing operations to streamline design development and product manufacturing using Lean processes and practices. The result is improved product quality and service and manufacturing efficiencies that drive down costs.
Kevin Nolan, GE Appliances VP of Technology, said, “This is a new product development model for us. For years, products have been designed far away from the factory and the people who would manufacture them. By co-locating all the people who are involved in bringing a product to life — engineering, quality, production (hourly and salaried) and sourcing — we increase collaboration and problem-solving and shorten development time. The result is going to be better products for our customers.”
GE Appliances already is using the center of excellence approach as it prepares to manufacture its new GeoSpring™ Hybrid Water Heater and frontload washer and dryer in Louisville and in the redesign of the dishwashers made there. The team is seeing the benefits of the approach with dramatically simpler designs, elimination of waste, and a more flexible factory layout. This combination has meant greater efficiency and productivity. For example, in the case of one of the new products, the team has achieved an impressive double-digit increase in productivity, which means they can make more units per work hour.
A significant portion of the investment also will be used to reduce the environmental impact of the refrigerator manufacturing process. Units being redesigned in Louisville, Bloomington and Decatur will be manufactured using a new “greener” foam insulating process, which will reduce the overall CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions at these sites by 90 percent or 687,000 metric tons per year.
The new product design also will improve overall product efficiency and help reduce costs for consumers. All of the new products are being designed to meet the anticipated 2014 Energy Star® standards. Most will incorporate smart-grid technology. GE’s line of “smart” products allows consumers to control their energy consumption and save money in areas where dynamic pricing options are offered.
Dirk Bowman, Manufacturing General Manager for GE Appliances, said, “The transformation underway at these facilities is breathing new life into U.S. manufacturing and new life into our products and the future of this business. Our manufacturing teams have demonstrated a desire to compete, and we have no doubt they are uniquely positioned to provide our customers with the outstanding quality and service expected from GE appliances.”