New GE Mebane customer experience centre showcases advanced manufacturing
By Alyssa Dalton
Jun. 25, 2015 – GE celebrated the grand opening of the new advanced manufacturing and customer experience centre in its Mebane, N.C., facility, a Carolina Star-certified plant, earlier this month. GE leaders and customers throughout Canada and the U.S. were joined by state and local government representatives and the media for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“GE is laser-focused on investing in its global industrial portfolio,” said Bob Gilligan, CEO of GE’s Industrial Solutions business. “The grand opening of our customer experience centre and labs enables us to more closely collaborate with our customers and incorporate their feedback early on in the product development process through FastWorks methodologies, ensuring that we are designing the right products to meet customer demand at an accelerated pace.”
According to GE officials, the Mebane facility’s open, high-tech work environment combines engineering, development, testing and manufacturing in a centralized location, which will enable teams to “work together to better serve the global customer base and deliver products in simpler, smarter and faster ways.” The $6-million investment, including the customer experience centre and advanced manufacturing labs, is estimated to enable the company to accelerate product development by up to 30 per cent.
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The operation features about 360,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space, 11,500 square feet of advanced labs and 30,000 square feet of offices, showrooms and training facilities. In addition, the site will serve as a new regional customer experience centre where customers will be invited to interact with GE’s latest electrical distribution, controls and critical power products and to share real-time feedback throughout the development process. It includes:
• Low- and Medium-Voltage IEEE Product Certification Lab — The lab will comply with IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and international equipment testing standards to gain third-party approvals, saving both time and costs in the development process, said officials. GE will be able to perform third-party certifications such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories), TUV-GS testing (Technischer Überwachungsverein) and KEMA testing.
• Product Accelerator Lab — This lab will work to improve new product design processes, speeding up development times with 3-D printing and rapid prototyping. By incorporating GE’s FastWorks methodologies, the lab unites customers and engineering teams in an atmosphere that allows for fast, hands-on feedback throughout the development process, said GE.
• Interactive, global product showroom to engage customers in developing products and technology while learning about GE’s commercial and industrial solutions.
• Customer and Employee Learning Centre — The centre provides a resource for customers and employees to continue to learn about GE’s new product introductions, lean manufacturing and advanced processes.
“These investments will help us to bring electrical distribution, controls and mission-critical products to fruition faster with more agility, supporting GE’s mission of inventing the next industrial era,” said Stuart Thompson, power equipment general manager at GE’s Industrial Solutions business.
The Mebane facility manufactures and assembles low- and medium-voltage motor control centres, lighting panels, switchboards, power panels, controls, automatic transfer switches and electrical vehicle supply equipment serving a global customer base of commercial, industrial and mission-critical customers such as hospitals, data centres, banks and wind farms. It is also utilizing resources such as advanced and automated manufacturing techniques, 3-D printing and in-house product certification to help improve the overall product development process.
“Our Mebane facility is home to an extremely talented, hardworking and energetic team of more than 500 employees,” said Jeff Blakeman, GE’s Mebane plant manager. “Employees will benefit from the site’s contemporary layout, learning centre and open workplace concept, fostering a new level of collaboration, providing employees with a chance to enhance their skill sets. With these recent investments, we are able to build on the 43-year tradition of GE in Mebane and equip employees with an innovative environment that encourages outside-of-the-box thinking.”
Photos A. Capkun