By: Michael Lauzon
August 6, 2012
LOUISVILLE, KY. (Aug. 6, 9:30 p.m. ET) — GE Appliances is signaling a big change in plastics parts sourcing in an expansion of its Louisville appliance products operation.
The firm said Aug. 6 that it will make more than 90 additional plastic parts and components for its dishwasher production expansion in Louisville. In-house dishwasher rack production will increase from 40 percent to 100 percent in Louisville’s dishwasher factory. As well, GE will expand inhouse production of metal components and back out overseas imports.
The inhouse sourcing program will make GE’s plastic injection molding facility at Appliance Park the largest such facility in Kentucky and the fourth largest in the United States, GE claims. In total, about 85 percent of the parts in the new dishwashers will be made in the United States.
Production for the first phase of a $150 million investment in the new dishwasher lines has begun. The project is part of an $800 million investment GE will have made at Appliance Park by 2014.
GE started the new Louisville in-house sourcing program in a modest scale in late 2011, according to a report in Business First. The program began with a 12-employee operation costing $2 million to start changing the way GE sources plastic parts in Louisville. The first components off the six new injection presses were plastic control panels for dishwashers made in Louisville. The molding operation included robots and other auxiliary equipment.
“To be competitive, we have to look for every opportunity to improve efficiencies and productivity while increasing quality,” noted GE Appliances product general manager for dishwashers, Cynthia Fanning. “Lean manufacturing principles have improved every aspect of our processes.”
GE reduced the size of the new dishwasher lines by more than 50 percent in the space-constrained factory. Repositioning the new lines cut transportation time within the plant. Workers’ input helped design work stations and processes, improving ergonomics, efficiency and quality. Production time per unit was cut by 65 percent.
The new dishwashers feature increased capacity and other innovations designed to encourage consumers to replace their older appliances with the new generation or to start a household with dishwashers offered by GE.
Other appliance majors do some inhouse plastics processing but GE seems ready to take that strategy to a new level. Electrolux Group’s large refrigerator plant in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, is one facility that molds, forms and foams a large volume of plastics.
GE is spending $1 billion to upgrade all its product lines and create new plants for products not previously made in the United States. These products include its GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater plant in Louisville, and production of bottom-freezer refrigerators and front-loading clothes washing machines. The company said it plans to open a new plant to make front-loading washers and matching dryers in early 2013.
GE has hired more than 1,000 production workers and nearly 500 engineers since planning the made-in-the-USA push in 2009.