August 06, 2012
GE’s Newest Dishwasher Production Lines Exemplify Changing Culture and Strategy
- First phase of a $150 million investment in GE’s dishwasher plant and product creates 100 additional jobs, insources key parts/components
- Production on first phase starts
- Dishwasher investment part of $800 million investment at GE’s Appliance Park by 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — August 6, 2012 — (NYSE:GE) — To make the most out of a $800 million investment and to truly revitalize its business and products, GE is changing a lot of things at its Appliance Park manufacturing operation in Louisville, Ky. Not only are the products changing, but how and what is manufactured is changing too. Newly designed products and manufacturing processes and insourcing of a large amount of components are all part of the $150 million dishwasher investment.
Washing Away Decades of Outdated Manufacturing Practices
When planning to make GE’s newest dishwashers, the manufacturing leaders had several challenges: to build new production lines in a space-constrained factory where existing lines would keep providing about one in every five homes with a dishwasher; to create a process that would leverage Lean manufacturing principles to reduce the time it takes to make each dishwasher; to reduce operational costs and unnecessary work for employees to improve productivity while increasing quality.
Relying on a new culture of continuous improvement and a collaborative work environment, fostered by Lean manufacturing principles, GE took employees from every discipline needed to design, build and operate the new lines and co-located them in one location so communication could be instantaneous and fluid. Each member of the team had a voice and a role—from engineering, to advanced manufacturing to the operators who assemble the products – all were on one team with a common goal – to improve the processes and products.
“We are in a very competitive industry. We have to offer consumers innovative, quality products and be able to sell them at a competitive price,” said Cynthia Fanning, product general manager for dishwashers at GE Appliances. “To be competitive, we have to look for every opportunity to improve efficiencies and productivity while increasing quality. Lean manufacturing principles have improved every aspect of our processes.”
The dishwasher Lean team came up with solutions to reduce production time and improve the production process and work environment for the production workers. To accomplish this, the team:
- Reduced the size of the new dishwasher lines by over 50 percent, compared to traditional assembly lines, which reduced production time, increased efficiency and improved quality. Shorter lines also allow problems to be identified and solved more quickly as well as improve communication.
- Significantly decreased transportation time within the plant by repositioning the new assembly lines in the back of the factory closer to staging areas for parts, such as dishwasher racks and tubs, and closer to where other parts come into the factory.
- Included production workers in the designing of work stations and processes, improving efficiency and ergonomics by reducing parts inventories and movements to complete tasks; in developing new job instructions to help eliminate quality issues and improve safety; and in improving the timely supply of parts to work stations. As a result, the overall production time per unit was reduced by about 65 percent.
“Before we implemented Lean, it was hard to address issues real-time,” said Dwight Young, Lean team leader. “Now we are there to listen to the operators. When they identify a problem, we are right there to help fix the issue, so it doesn’t have to be addressed later in the process. Lean gives all of us an opportunity to make more of a contribution, to improve quality and productivity, which makes us feel good, more valued.”
By using Lean manufacturing, GE reduced the size of this assembly line by over 50 percent versus their traditional manufacturing line, which reduces production time, increases productivity and improves quality.
Loading Your Dishwasher with More U.S. Parts
One of the key features consumers look for in a dishwasher is capacity. They want to pack as many dishes in one load as possible. Now, their dishwashers will be loaded with more U.S. parts than ever before. In fact, about 85 percent of the parts in GE new dishwashers will be made in the U.S. — including an increased number made at Appliance Park in Louisville, Ky., making its plastic injection molding facility the largest in Kentucky and the fourth largest in the U.S.
- In-house dishwasher rack production will increase from 40 to 100 percent in Louisville’s dishwasher factory.
- Production of stainless steel inner and outer doors will be moved from overseas to Louisville.
- Over 90 additional plastic custom parts/components will be made at Appliance Park for dishwashers.
- Ten more stamping processes will be added at Appliance Park to support dishwasher parts/components.
“Consumers will be so impressed with the American ingenuity that is going into these dishwashers,” said Fanning. “When our investment is complete, we will be offering dishwashers with industry-first features in the highest quality products available. From the innovation in these products to our U.S. employees who work every day to improve how and what we do, we have a lot to be proud of.”
GE Appliances Revitalization Update
In February of this year, GE Appliances opened its GeoSpring™ Hybrid Water Heater facility in Louisville, Ky., kicking off the $1 billion investment GE plans to make by 2014 to upgrade all its product lines and create new factories for products not previously made in the U.S., such as the GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater, bottom-freezer refrigerators and frontload washing machines. Since January of 2012, GE has hired over 1,000 production workers and has hired nearly 500 engineers since planning for the new products started in 2009.
In addition to the hybrid water heaters and bottom-freezer refrigerators now being produced in Louisville, preparation is underway to open another plant to make frontload washing machines and matching dryers in early 2013. Extensive investment is being made in Louisville to enhance product offerings in top load washing machines and dishwashers. By 2014, GE will also be making upgrades in side-by-side refrigerators made in Bloomington, Ind., top freezers in Decatur, Ala., and cooking products made in Lafayette, Ga.
To find out more about GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heaters, visit:
To learn more about GE’s new French door refrigerators, visit:
About GE Appliances
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric (NYSE: GE) works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit www.ge.com/appliances.