April 28, 2020
GE moved into Greenville, South Carolina, in 1969 to manufacture huge turbines that burn natural gas to generate electricity — and achieved conspicuous success over the next half-century. A few years ago, the plant had grown to 1.5 million square feet, and the HA class of turbines it produced was setting efficiency world records. But when demand for turbines temporarily dried up, Greenville was left holding parts it couldn’t use worth millions of dollars . The inventory problem was compounded by another one: The turbines themselves took too long to make. “It hurt us a lot,” said Jon Boucher, an executive at GE Gas Power. But he had an idea of how to get things back on track.
Drop in the bucket: Boucher looked to lean, a system of continuous improvement. It’s now at the heart of GE’s turnaround. In Greenville, the implementation of lean started with a bucket: That’s the name for a turbine blade that Boucher describes as “the heart of the turbine.” To get a comprehensive look at how the factory worked, Boucher and colleagues created a scale model on several folding tables. Then, using yarn, they traced the bucket’s journey from start to finish. They found that it traveled 3 miles on an 85-day voyage through the plant that resembled a bowl of spaghetti. The next step? Untangle that spaghetti.
Now the bucket travels just 165 feet — in way less time. The improvements have allowed the team to cut overall production for the HA turbine from a year and a half in 2017 to less than 40 weeks. They are now looking to reduce that number by another 25% by the end of 2020. Inventory levels are down by half, saving the business hundreds of millions of dollars.
Learn more here about how lean helped turn the turbine plant around.
Mike Ledwidge works for GE Healthcare in Wisconsin as a global clinical marketing specialist for the company’s LOGIQ ultrasound systems — and, like many of us, his days currently consist of a lot of video meetings. Ledwidge does get to leave the house, though. In the afternoon, he heads to GE Healthcare’s Madison plant, which has ramped up its production of the mechanical ventilators needed in the fight against COVID-19. It’s all hands on deck in Madison and — because he answered the call for volunteers to join the effort — two of those hands now belong to Ledwidge: “I said, ‘Wherever you have the most use for me, or whatever is the most challenging job to fill, that’s what I’ll do.’” He started the next day as a volunteer custodian, working the second shift.
Clean manufacturing principles: At first, the work consisted of the usual janitorial duties, like taking out the trash. But Ledwidge found that he could use his decades of experience in clinical settings to help keep plant workers safe. He helped the custodial team to reimagine their roles, establishing a rigorous disinfecting schedule. As the workers on the floor undertake their crucial tasks, that kind of close attention helps keep them healthy — but its effects are bigger than that. “From what I’m told, from the manufacturing floor, they can see us cleaning and it helps with their mindset,” Ledwidge said. “They can be more at ease and focused, knowing that we’re trying to keep them safe.”
Read more here.
1. Corona Blocker
Researchers at the University of Louisville are working on a strand of synthetic DNA that could block the new coronavirus from infecting human cells.
2. Drone Zone
To keep them out of harm’s way, a town on the coast of Chile has begun using drones to deliver medications, masks and hand sanitizer to elderly and vulnerable residents.
3. Visualizing Hope
Scientists from Germany’s Heidelberg University released the COVID-19 Map of Hope, which provides an “overview of the global clinical research activities” on coronavirus and COVID-19.
Click here for more promising developments in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“As we move forward with our lean transformation, we are not looking to simply check the box. We are changing the way we run GE, business by business, every day, from the bottom up.”
— Larry Culp, chairman and CEO of GE
Quote: GE Reports. Image: Tomas Kellner for GE Reports.
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