The Path to Manufacturing Brilliance to Meet Global Energy Demand
Apr 14, 2016
Raj Thakkar
1 comment

Imagine ordering and receiving a product 25% faster. Imagine watching the parts of that product created with stronger materials that had never been imagined before, printed in 3D and assembled by an ensemble of brilliant machines that can predict problems along the way. We’re not there yet, but we’re in the midst of an industrial manufacturing turning point that will take us there. 

Rewind the clock to the late 1700’s in Britain, and we find ourselves at the beginning of the world’s industrial manufacturing path.  During the Industrial Revolution, laborers traded work in the fields for jobs in the factory which transformed rural life, the workforce and the economies of Europe and the United States. The power of steam and machinery were harnessed to thrust the world toward mass production. You’re likely wearing a garment that could trace its production method back to these early days of manufacturing. 

Fast forward to the early 1900’s, and manufacturing was thrust forward again at a rate of six feet per minute— the rate at which a car moved along Henry Ford’s assembly line.  Ford was on a mission to make automobiles accessible to the masses. To make sure cars were affordable, he drove cost out of his manufacturing process by cutting the time it took to build a car from 12 hours to two hours and thirty minutes. You’re likely riding in a car today that was made commonplace by this production method. 

Skip again to the late 1900’s, and we find another automobile manufacturing process pushed us forward—the Toyota Production System.  Here lean, or just-in-time, manufacturing was introduced which efficiently produced only what was needed, when it was needed, and in the amount needed.  This approach dramatically reduced waste and increased efficiency. The concept was combined with “Jidoka” a term which means, “automation with a human touch.” Jidoka enabled machines to stop production if a flaw was detected; workers could oversee multiple machines and quickly remedy any defects thus assuring only high-quality products were produced. Because these two concepts have been so widely adopted beyond the automobile industry, the chair you’re sitting on or the device you’re reading this article on was likely produced using their precepts.

Today we find ourselves at the beginning of another industrial manufacturing turning point, this time powered by the potential of merging hardware and software to reimagine how products are designed, made and serviced. In many ways building off of previous manufacturing innovations, GE is leading this charge with Advanced Manufacturing, which encompasses elements such as advanced fabrication, automation and advanced insight and analytics. We are merging Advanced Manufacturing with the Industrial Internet in GE Brilliant Factories. The effects of this innovation will span numerous industries and will likely touch your life through optimized electricity that powers your home or the efficient train that takes you to work. 

For 2016, GE has identified 75 operations as Brilliant Factory opportunities. These sites include every GE business and span the globe.  Energy Connections, GE’s electrification and automation business, has eight factories on this important list. Each of these sites balance operational excellence and lean manufacturing with maturity and implementation of digital technology. We are on a path to move these factories toward being designated GE Brilliant Factories, increasing efficiency and speed while reducing waste and ultimately cutting millions in cost along the way.

This transformation is essential for our business and our customers. Energy Connections plays a vital role in the GE Store as the gateway to the over 23,000 TWh of electricity produced and consumed globally. This massive amount of electricity demand is projected to rise nearly 80 percent by 2040. To connect this power to the people and places that need it most, we aim to achieve the following goals at our 8 factories with the intent of spreading this progress throughout our supply chain:      

Energy Connections Brilliant Factory Goals

·       Reduce lead-time by 25%

·       Improve productivity by 3%

·       Improve inventory turns by 1 turn

·       Improve revenue by increasing on-time delivery by 5%

While we travel along this path toward Brilliant Factories, we’ll share more about how we’re transforming our supply chain and our company into a world class GE business and “turning the world on”.   

Raj Thakkar

As Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Sourcing for GE Energy Connections (EC), Raj leads a team responsible for bringing together the people, processes and brilliant machines that create Energy Connections’ products that turn the world on. Prior to this role, Raj was General Manager, Global Sourcing & Supplier Quality for EC where he turned the company’s “Buy GE” initiative into a $1 billion effort. Raj began his 22-year tenure at GE as a Design Engineer Intern.