Employees at GEA’s newly expanded refrigeration plant in Decatur, Ala., pose with the fruits of their labor.
By Alan Wolf, YSN
GE Appliances (GEA) has taken the wraps off its $125 million plant expansion in Decatur, Ala.
The investment boosts production capacity at the high-tech refrigeration facility by 25 percent and ensures early compliance with mandated refrigerant changes that go into effect in 2022, the company said.
In the process, the expansion created 255 new jobs, for a total of 1,300 positions at the factory.
GE said the expansion will help it meet growing demand for its top-freezer refrigerators, and represents another step toward fulfilling its strategic goal of becoming the leading major appliances company in the U.S.
“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 GEA. “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.”
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The factory’s latest Industry 4.0 technology additions include data visualization, 3D scanning, rapid prototyping and other smart automation that provides the operations team with real-time data to make better and faster decisions. Among the advancements:
- 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;
- a steel refrigerator case can be built in seconds thanks to advanced fabrication; and
- the plant’s new common product architecture and redesigned assembly lines gives it the flexibility to build multiple-sized models to meet shifting customer demand.
Added Renee Story, GEA’s Plant Executive Director, “The company’s generous investment helped transform this 42-year-old facility into a Manufacturing Center of Excellence for top-freezer refrigerators. “Adding technology and increased production capability helped our already amazing team move manufacturing to the next level.”