For 50 years there were no new plants at GE's Appliance Park manufacturing campus in Louisville, KY - but today GE Corp. will open its second new plant in two months.
Today, March 20, 2012, GE opens another new plant to make high-tech refrigerators. Like the GeoSpring facility, the new fridge factory uses Lean manufacturing techniques for better manufacturing efficiency.
The two plants are part of a series of GE appliance manufacturing investment initiatives begun in 2009 and totaling $1 billion, and expected to create 1300 new U.S. jobs by 2014. GE said its investments at Appliance Park created hundreds of skilled salaried jobs in engineering, industrial design, and manufacturing, and other skilled positions.
Appliance Park was once the biggest appliance manufacturing site in the world. Cost-justifying new manufacturing on the site required a more efficient approach to product development and manufacturing, the cooperation of labor, and government incentives. The GeoSpring water heater plant that opened in February was symbolically important if for no other reason than it replaced manufacturing that had been done in China.
GE Corp. has been widely applauded for its ongoing programs to bring manufacturing back into the United States. Vice President Joe Biden, during a speech to Appliance Park workers in the summer of 2010, called GE's efforts exemplary of the need to re-invigorate U.S. manufacturing with advanced green technology. The new appliances are being developed with an emphasis on meeting environmental needs.
The hybrid water heater, for example, uses heat pump technology (in combination with traditional electric elements) to pull heat from surrounding air and transfer it to the tank. The appliance produces the same amount of hot water as a traditional water heater but does so using up to 62% less energy per year.
The refrigerators at the plant opening today will use a greener foam insulating process and reduce the overall CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions at the site.
This investment was announced in October 2010 as one of four U.S.-based refrigeration design and manufacturing "centers of excellence," expected to create 500 new green jobs by 2014. In October of 2010 GE estimated that the investment in the new Louisville refrigerator facility would be $194 million. The plant makes bottom-freezer refrigerators - a new product platform for Appliance Park.
The new centers for refrigeration products - in addition to Louisville - are under development in Bloomington, IN; Decatur, AL; and Selmer, TN. At the announcement in 2010, Kevin Nolan, GE Appliances vice president of Technology, described the "centers of excellence" approach: "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 (hourly and salaried) and sourcing - we increase collaboration and problem-solving and shorten development time. The result is going to be better products for our customers."
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