GE Appliances Going Lean

I have not been very high on GE as a company.  I have dealt with too many command-and-control managers that came from GE and Jack Welch I think is the single most overrated CEO in history.  He destroyed GE’s manufacturing to gain his golden parachute.

It has taken awhile but GE seems to be making strides in a great direction.  A year or so ago, GE announced the building of a manufacturing complex in Louisville, KY dedicated to building their appliance lines using lean manufacturing.

An article last week highlighted some of the reasons and the results from the first venture in GE’s new dishwasher plant.  My favorite heading in the article is “Washing Away Decades of Outdated Manufacturing Practices”.  AMEN!!!

So what did GE hope to accomplish by investing $150 million in the new facility?

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.

They needed to reduce cost and delivery time and increase quality.  Something lean can help improve all of.  Not one while sacrificing others.

How was lean going to help?

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.

Great ideas and they seem to be working very well.  The results listed in the article are incredible.  Here are just one bullet point listed as a result.

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.

Great to see the employees doing the work involved in the improvement process.  With all the great results this is what I was the most happy to read.

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

It shows that manufacturing close to the consumer in a “high cost” country can be competitive in any industry.  Kudos to GE for attempting to change their manufacturing ways.

Posted on August 13, 2012, in Engagment, Improvement, Manufacturing, Supply Chain and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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