GE CEO Holds Up Appliance Park as Example of Reinventing America
Feb 16, 2012
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GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and Appliance Park have the cover story in the March 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review - an issue dedicated to stories focused on "Reinventing America" and what the U.S. is "doing right" to be more competitive.
"We have called on some of the world's most original thinkers to explain the competitiveness challenge America faces and to point the way forward," said Adi Ignatius, HBR editor in chief said.
Immelt's story describes how GE was able to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. from China and open a new production line at GE's Appliance Park in Louisville, KY - the first new production facility at the iconic appliance manufacturing campus in five decades.
Immelt said human innovation along with technical innovation are key to GE's American manufacturing success and the United States' industrial renewal. In Louisville, this translated into restructuring the product development and manufacturing process to replace "functional silos" with a "one team" mentality. It also included the hiring of 300 industrial designers and engineers.
"Designers, engineers, and assembly-line workers together determine the best way to meet their goals; they own the metrics," Immelt said.
Immelt wrote: "(managers) post their action items and deliverables for all to see, and employees have a strong sense of accountability. If they conceive an idea for redesigning an appliance that weighs less and has fewer components and lower material costs, they can build it."
GE workers at Appliance Park have already used this approach in the redesign of a 25-year old dishwasher production line, and the result was a production time reduction of 68% and production line space reduction of 80%. Immelt wrote that the result is less outsourcing and more in-house production.
"When we are deciding where to manufacture, we ask, 'Will our people and technology in the U.S. provide us with a competitive advantage?' Increasingly the answer is yes," Immelt wrote in the HBR article.
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