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Annual Meeting: GE Shows Shareowners Digital Industrial Future

GE held its annual meeting for shareowners Wednesday on the factory floor at GE Aviation’s new 170,000-square foot plant Asheville, North Carolina. “Each year we hold our annual meeting in a city that is important to GE and its shareowners,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. He focused on the company’s transformation as a leader in the digital-industrial revolution.

One example of this leadership is the new Asheville plant, which is the world’s first commercial facility for making parts from an advanced material called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs). Developed in GE labs, CMCs allow the latest jet engines like the LEAP to become more efficient and burn less fuel. But the LEAP engines, designed to power next-generation Boeing, Airbus and Comac jets, also contain over 140 sensors. These allow engineers to gather operations data and run analytics to predict performance, monitor maintenance and keep the engine flying as much as possible. GE Aviation also has a second plant in Asheville for making complex rotating components for jet engines.

Immelt pointed out that GE businesses employ about 4,600 manufacturing and professional employees in North Carolina, and its economic presence in the state supports nearly 18,000 other jobs statewide. The CEO also said that GE’s North Carolina employees volunteered nearly 7,500 hours in the community in 2016.

Top image: GE Aviation’s new plant in Asheville makes ceramic matrix composites. Image credit: GE Reports/GE Aviation. Above: The light- and heat-resistant material allows engineers to design more efficient jet engines, but also gas turbines and other machines. Image credit: GE Reports/GE Aviation.

Last year, GE Healthcare started working with Asheville-based Mission Health, a regional health system operating a 730-bed, high-volume hospital. Mission Health will use GE’s medical technology, software and expertise to reduce patient wait time and streamline and optimize information processing and services, among other improvements. The goal for the 10-year plan is to deliver over $40 million in savings in areas such as imaging and radiology. GE has facilities in more than 180 countries, and these are just a few examples of how GE works within its local communities.

Immelt also highlighted GE’s transformation into a “digital-industrial” company. He said that a decade ago, industrial businesses made up just 45 percent of GE’s earnings. Today, they account for 90 percent. Just last month, GE announced the last major closing of the GE Capital Exit Plan, bringing the company to about $198 billion of signed and closed deals since April 2015. GE also announced plans to merge its Oil & Gas business with Baker Hughes to create a fullstream digital industrial services company.

At the same time, GE is also moving fast to establish itself as a leader in the Industrial Internet connecting humans, machines and the cloud. An established player in energy, aviation, transportation, healthcare and other key infrastructure areas, the company has moved into data and software analytics. Engineers at GE Digital, its software arm, developed Predix — the company’s operating system for the Industrial Internet — to bring its own operations, as well as customers, into the digital age.

The digital push also covers manufacturing. In 2016, GE acquired Concept Laser and Arcam AB, two makers of industrial additive manufacturing machines that can 3D print designs directly from a computer file. GE believes that additive manufacturing will increase GE productivity and as well as change the way its customers make things.

Immelt also spent some time looking back. GE is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2017. To commemorate the milestone, he hosted a town hall meeting with employees from Asheville and around the world to reflect on the company’s journey. You can watch it here.

Arcam 3D printers are already producing compressor blades (see below) for the GE9X, the world’s largest jet engine. Images credit: GE Reports/GE Aviation.

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