Louisville, Ky. - GE Appliances is expanding its efforts to promote domestic majap production with a $432 million investment in four U.S. refrigerator facilities.
The plants, located in Louisville, Ky.; Bloomington, Ind.; Decatur, Ala.; and Selmer, Tenn., will be retrofit as "centers of excellence" for the design and manufacture of top-mount, bottom-mount, side-by-side and built-in models that incorporate smart-grid technology and meet anticipated 2014 Energy Star standards.
The infusion brings GE's recent investment in U.S. facilities to more than $1 billion, which will create more than 1,300 jobs over the next four years and will give GE the highest percentage of U.S.-made refrigerators among full-line majap makers, the company said.
GE said increased domestic production is made possible through a combination of government incentives; "lean manufacturing" practices that place the design and manufacturing functions within the same facility, and new wage agreements with unions and employees.
"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," said Jim Campbell, president/CEO of GE Appliances & Lighting. "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."
Under the lean practices initiative, the new refrigeration centers will co-locate product design teams with manufacturing operations to streamline design development and product manufacturing. The result, said GE, is improved product quality and service and manufacturing efficiencies that drive down costs.
"This is a new product development model for us," said GE Appliances' technology VP Kevin Nolan. "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 and sourcing -- we increase collaboration and problem-solving and shorten development time. The result is going to be better products for our customers."
GE is presently employing the approach as it prepares to launch a new "smart" front-load laundry line and a redesigned dishwasher platform in Louisville. The company said it is already seeing benefits in dramatically simpler designs, less waste and a more flexible factory layout, which has contributed to greater efficiency and productivity.
The latest, $432 million investment includes:
Â· $194 million for the addition of bottom-mount design and production to GE's main Appliance Park campus in Louisville, which will create 300 jobs;
Â· $93 million for side-by-side design and production at the Bloomington facility, creating 200 jobs. Once slated for closure, the plant is also receiving an additional $68 million to maintain its current product lines, bringing total investment in there through 2014 to $161 million;
Â· $43 million, in addition to an earlier $16 million investment, to produce top-mount models in Decatur through a new "greener" foam insulating process that will help retain more than 1,000 jobs; and
Â· $32 million to redesign the built-in Monogram refrigeration line in Selmer and produce a new configuration for the premium market, which will help retain the 166 jobs there.
In addition, the new foam insulating process, which will also be deployed in Louisville and Bloomington, will reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent, or 687,000 metric tons per year, GE said.
Added Campbell: "Appliances is no longer a â€˜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."