GE Appliances (GEA), a Haier company, recently unveiled the completion of its $125 million investment at its refrigeration plant in Decatur, Alabama. The investment boosted production capacity by 25% and ensures early compliance with 2022 refrigerant changes, making the plant a super site for GE Appliances top-freezer refrigeration production.
The Decatur plant is the largest employer at a single location in Morgan County, Alabama and the expansion created 255 new jobs, bringing total employment to 1,300 at the plant.
GE Appliances transacts approximately $58 million in business with suppliers across Alabama, a number that will grow with the newly expanded Decatur facility’s increase in production. Over the next five years, the Decatur plant is expected to increase its already substantial annual economic impact in the state of Alabama.
“Decatur is a great example of how we are infusing digitization and other new technologies to improve safety, quality and manufacturing efficiency in our nine U.S. factories,” said Bill Good, vice president of supply chain for GE Appliances in a statement. “Smart factories help us better connect with the consumer by creating a digital thread from the moment the appliance goes into production. We can monitor the production lines from anywhere and pinpoint issues quickly, allowing for production to continue smoothly and efficiently, ensuring we surpass our consumers’ expectations of supply chain speed and reliability.”
The investment allowed GE Appliances to increase production to meet growing demand for its top-freezer refrigerators, which are rated number one in the industry for both quality and reliability. The investment is also another step toward fulfilling GEA’s strategic goal of becoming the leading major appliances company in the United States.
Decatur’s latest Industry 4.0 technology additions include data visualization, 3-D scanning, rapid prototyping and other “smart” automation that provides the operations team with real-time data to make better and faster decisions. Some specific examples at the Decatur plant include:
- Auto Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are being deployed to move materials throughout assembly processes, reducing damage and eliminating ergonomic issues.
- More than 50 robots perform heavy lifting operations, repetitive tasks, and other precise or ergonomically challenging jobs.
- Engineered and made in the United States, the newest and most advanced fabrication in the industry equipment builds a steel refrigerator case in seconds.
- The plant’s new common product architecture and redesigned assembly lines gives it the flexibility to build many different size models to meet shifting customer demand.
Decatur’s progress has already been noticed, as the plant was named 2019 Assembly Plant of the Year by Assembly Magazine. “The company’s generous investment helped transform this 42-year-old facility into a Manufacturing Center of Excellence for top-freezer refrigerators,” said Renee Story, plant executive director for GE Appliances in a statement. “Adding technology and increased production capability helped our already amazing team move manufacturing to the next level.”