Letter to Shareholders

Winning in the Environment

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Every organization is being impacted by two macro themes: changing views on globalization and the role that digitization plays in disrupting industry. No company can escape these waves of change.

GE is a global company today and in the future. We have never considered ourselves to be a “stateless multinational.” We are a proud American company that is winning in every corner of the world.

In 2000, about 70% of our revenue was in the U.S. Today, over 60% of our orders come from global markets. Over that time, our global growth has averaged 5% to 10% annually; in fact, 85% of our aircraft engines and gas turbines have been sold abroad. Winning in global markets has created thousands of U.S. jobs at GE. After the 9/11 tragedy, the U.S. commercial aviation market shut down. Our ability to win around the world kept our business strong and our American factories working. Today, we export more than $20 billion annually, spreading best practices and building relationships.

But attitudes on globalization have been changing, and it is important that we remain agile to move on our own. There is a strong trend toward economic nationalism all over the world. Governments will execute heavy influence over the economy, with an even stronger focus on local job creation.

Brilliant Factories:
Reducing Lead Time and Increasing Productivity

  • 25%
    on-time delivery
  • $20M cost-out
  • +1.1 inventory turns
  • 7%
    shop efficiency
  • 10%$80%
    work scopes
  • +2 inventory turns
  • 50% lead time
  • 39% inventory
  • +0.8 inventory turns
  • 17% lead time
  • 5% machine utilization
  • +1 inventory turns
  • 18%
  • $76$45 operating costs per hour
  • +3 inventory turns
  • 36% lead time
  • 5% productivity
  • +2 inventory turns
  • 32% hours/CT unit
  • 42% CT lead time
  • +2 inventory turns

The U.S. doesn’t compete for global markets on the same basis as China and Germany. Over the past generation, the U.S. has done very little to help our manufacturers or workers. Our tax policy favors imports, not exports. Our infrastructure is subpar. Our regulations have exploded. We remain the only major economy in the world without a functioning export bank. In almost every category, the U.S. stands apart with antiquated policies while our global competitors have embraced change. Meanwhile, other countries are on the move, doing trade deals and promoting growth. They are selling “government-to-government” to grow their competitive advantage. The world does not stand still. We are hopeful that the new administation will "level the playing field" for U.S. companies.

We have globalized in our own way. We know that outsourcing is different from globalization. Outsourcing is yesterday’s game. During the ’80s and ‘90s, business looked to the emerging markets as a cheap labor source. Some American jobs migrated to countries that welcomed U.S. companies with open arms. Some American workers lost in the game of wage arbitrage.

Today, our globalization is driven by a desire to access fast-growing global markets. We still see substantial opportunity to grow around the world by investing, operating, and building relationships in the countries where we do business. We’ve developed creative financing solutions and joint ventures that have given us a critical edge in economies where the opportunities for growth are immense. Being global and local gives us the ability to compete and win in 180 countries around the world. Because we are a real and regular presence in diverse markets, when we win globally, we benefit the U.S. as well.

This includes China. Every company and country needs a strategy to engage the second-biggest economy on earth. We continue to grow in China. GE competes by localizing capability, building partnerships, and creating a productive digital framework for the local market. We are a net exporter to China. We partner with Chinese construction companies and leverage their funding to win in Africa and Asia. Our investments have created jobs in China and the U.S., while making GE more competitive.

GE’s innovations solve some of the world’s toughest problems. We have long been a leader in clean energy innovation and providing affordable healthcare. GE’s locomotives can be found in South Africa, Brazil, and Indonesia. We have restored electricity to Iraq, Argentina, and Nigeria. Our jet engines power military aircraft that keep the world safe. You can only solve local problems where you have local capability. I would confidently state that GE has the finest global footprint of any company in the world.

At the same time, the benefits we bring to the communities where we operate are clear, especially to the roughly one million men and women we employ either directly or indirectly in the U.S. They count on us for high-quality jobs and for long-term investing at home and abroad to keep our company strong and growing. Leadership, now more than ever, is about embracing the new and bringing people with you. We act like a single company, a meritocracy that doesn’t discriminate or fear the future. The Americans in GE like their Brazilian and Chinese counterparts. Good global companies are diverse teams, who take care of each other when times are tough.

Are we witnessing the end of globalization? I don’t think so. It is the end of the “global elite,” those who see the world only from financial centers or a website. Most “Global Institutions” are 70 years old and must be modernized to address contemporary global challenges. Globalization is “gritty,” meant to be consumed at retail, from the ground. It is differentiated and intensely local. Investment and jobs matter everywhere. Globalization is fresh - it changes every day.

Partnering to Bring Predix to the World

GE and Schindler Group are partnering to optimize Schindler’s connected elevators, escalators, and smart buildings around the world with Predix.

Pictured left to right: Kate Johnson, Bill Ruh, Harel Kodesh, Michael Nilles, Silvio Napoli, Alfred N. Schindler, Karl Hofstetter, Thomas Oetterli

To be clear, our preference is for multilateralism and free trade. But in this period of nationalization, GE’s competitive advantage will grow. We don’t need trade deals, because we have a superior global footprint. We can export from multiple countries that give us access to their funding. We will adjust to potential changes in tax policy or protectionist tendencies. We value our global team. We see many giving up on globalization; that means more for us.

Can American businesspeople be loyal to their global teams and their country? I know we can, because American values endure. The notions of fairness, merit, competing to be your best, risk taking, trying hard, giving back, training, integrity … these are the values that have allowed GE to win around the world, as an American company. I could never be a good American CEO if I fail to treat our global employees with the values I grew up with.

But let’s face it. Many fears of the American workforce are created by a lack of competitiveness. We cannot merely blame a dysfunctional government. While tax reform can help, it is unlikely to be the only answer. American business needs to invest more. Over the past years, capital investment has declined substantially. Outsourcing, purely to achieve lower wages, is too easy. The massive industry consolidations that we see today haven’t helped, because they have choked off innovation and reduced investments in a competitive workforce.

We believe that digital investment in industry can help solve the productivity challenge. The Industrial Internet and additive manufacturing are two emerging technologies that create new entitlements for productivity. GE chooses to lead in both fields. But why? We could always sit back and let others create the market, relegating our role to consumer and not as leader.

GE has the most intellectual property and the best capability in both innovations. We are a huge practitioner, and our customers have a thirst for productivity. We have the most to gain by building the Industrial Internet and additive manufacturing and the most to lose by giving it to others. Your company is building new businesses that generate productivity for GE, our customers, and the world.

When digitization and globalization intersect, we build a more competitive company with a highly skilled, well-paid workforce. We recently opened a jet engine factory in Indiana where we make our CFM LEAP engine. This engine has 141 sensors, which includes parts designed and manufactured with additive technology and our next-gen ceramic matrix composite materials (CMCs). The CFM LEAP engine is designed to be the most advanced, durable, and digitally-enabled engine ever made, and 80% of the products will be exported. Meanwhile, every day our service engineers – equipped with digital tools – serve their customers all over the world. Innovation is making work and workers smarter.

GE is a leader in globalization and a leader in digitization. We plan to capitalize on change to build our competitive advantage.

Building the LEAP for the World

The CFM LEAP1 is the world’s first jet engine with 3D-printed fuel nozzles and parts made from advanced materials, such as ceramic matrix composites. These technologies make the LEAP 15 percent more fuel-efficient than other similar engines made by CFM.

Pictured: LEAP Engine Lafayette Team, GE Aviation

1. LEAP is a trademark of CFM International, a 50-50 joint venture between Snecma (Safran) and GE.

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