GE Appliances officially marked completion of a $125 million investment project at its Decatur refrigerator plant, which boosted production capacity, added new “smart” technology and increased the site’s workforce.
The expansion project, announced in June 2018, allowed GE Appliances to increase production to meet growing demand for its top-freezer refrigerators, which are rated No. 1 in the industry for both quality and reliability. The investment is also another step toward fulfilling the Haier company’s strategic goal of becoming the leading major appliances company in the United States.
The expansion created 255 jobs, bringing total employment at the plant to 1,300.
The project boosts production capacity by 25 percent and ensures early compliance with 2022 refrigerant changes, making the Alabama plant a super site for GE Appliances top-freezer refrigeration production.
“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 GE Appliances. “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,” Good said.
The state of Alabama, the city of Decatur, the Morgan County Commission, the Morgan County Economic Development Association and the Tennessee Valley Authority have been important partners in the expansion.
“GE Appliances’ decision to make a significant reinvestment in its Decatur manufacturing center and expand its workforce are strong indicators of the confidence the company has in its Alabama operation,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.
GE Appliances said Industry 4.0 technology additions at the Decatur facility include data visualization, 3-D scanning, rapid prototyping and other “smart” automation that provides the operations team with real-time data to make better and faster decisions.
This includes auto guided vehicles, or AGVs, that move materials through the assembly process and more than 50 robots that perform heavy lifting operations and repetitive tasks. In addition, the most advanced fabrication in the industry can build a steel refrigerator case in seconds.
“The company’s generous investment helped transform this 42-year-old facility into a Manufacturing Center of Excellence for top-freezer refrigerators,” said Renee Story, plant executive director for GE Appliances. “Adding technology and increased production capability helped our already amazing team move manufacturing to the next level.”
Assembly magazine named the facility its 2019 Assembly Plant of the Year.
The Decatur plant is the largest employer at a single location in Morgan County. GE Appliances transacts approximately $58 million in business with suppliers across Alabama, a number that will grow with the newly expanded facility’s increase in production.