Joseph Moore works days on the shop floor at GE Aviation’s fast-growing jet engine factory in Auburn – then teaches his experiences at night in the classroom.
He’s one of several operations managers at GE’s Auburn, Ala. site with a teaching role during the month-long vocational training sessions at Southern Union State Community College near Auburn to prepare GE’s growing foster of hourly workers.
About four sessions are held annually to handle the demand for more trained workers in the GE Auburn factory. In addition to the Southern Union instructors, the program includes Moore and his GE colleagues each leading a three-hour evening of instruction each week.
“I really enjoy the interaction,” says Moore, who teaches lean manufacturing, Six Sigma quality practices, and compliance. “Being part of the training also allows us to get a good look at the people we are evaluating for positions at the plant.”
To get a job at GE’s Auburn facility, which uses sophisticated equipment to machine advanced turbine airfoils and structural components for jet engines, machine operators are first trained at Southern Union with a curriculum developed by the Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) division and by local GE plant leaders.
Training for GE’s Auburn employees is not limited to community college classes. The plant also offers training in non-destructive testing where employees become certified to evaluate jet engine components scanned in advanced X-ray machines. “There’s a skills shortage in this field,” says Tory Landry, the plant’s human relations leader. “It’s hard to find the people. We offer in-house training to candidates who can then experience a significant pay increase.”
The training is part of the reason for the high retention at the plant. “There are great careers in advanced manufacturing,” says plant manager Ricardo Acevedo. GE Aviation is also engaging with engineering students at Auburn University in additive manufacturing projects.
Looking ahead the plant will require even more workers. While employment reached 200 people in March it is expected to grow to 280 by year’s end., according to plant manager Ricardo Acevedo.
GE Auburn produces components for the “LEAP” engine for CFM International, the 50/50 joint company of GE and Safran Aircraft Engines of France. More than 14,000 LEAP engines are on back order to power three airplanes: the Airbus Industrie A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX, and China’s COMAC C919. The GE and Safran factories delivered 459 LEAP engines in 2017. The LEAP delivery goal for 2018 is up to 1,200 engines, and in the 1,800-engine range in 2019.
In addition to machining parts, the Auburn site this year will produce more than 34,000 fuel nozzle injectors for the LEAP engine using laser-powder, additive manufacturing machines. Auburn’s 37 additive machines is expected to grow to 45 by mid-year to handle the needed higher volume.
Over the past decade, GE Aviation has opened eight new facilities in the United States, including the new factory in Auburn. Other locations include Asheville, N.C.; Lafayette, Ind. and Huntsville, Ala. Over the past seven years, GE Aviation has invested more than $4.5 billion in its U.S. manufacturing operations.