General Electric Company's (IW 500/6) announcement on August 17 of a $100 million investment in a new topload washer design and expanded manufacturing capability at its plant in Louisville marks the company’s largest laundry launch in 20 years.
“While frontload washers have surged in popularity the last decade, the traditional topload washer is 75% of washer sales and remains the most popular style of washer in the U.S. today,” said Peter Pepe, general manager for clothes care at GE Appliances.
The ramp-up of the company’s new washer line is “ahead of schedule thanks to the successful execution of our salaried and hourly employees who have worked hard on this launch,” said Pepe.
Part of the success of this particular factory is that it was redesigned using Lean manufacturing principles, the company said. From the ergonomically designed employee workstations to the minimal times parts are handled throughout the process, the revamped manufacturing space is one of GE Appliances most efficient ever.
The plant has improved their flexibility and productivity by implementing pattern scheduling to produce a richer mix of models. “Think of jelly beans,” said Michael Land, quality leader for the program. “Instead of having to make 500 blue jelly beans and then 500 of green, our new process allows us to make two green, one red, two blue and so on, so we can quickly and efficiently respond to customer demand with the washer model they need.”
The updated top-loader is one of several new product launches GE Appliances has announced in recent years, according to the Louisville Business First. Other new products include a hybrid gas/electric water heater, a new French door refrigerator and a new front load washer and drier.
The new products came after General Electric Co. invested about $800 million at Appliance Park between 2009 and 2012. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to invest an additional $250 million at Appliance Park. This new line is part of that investment.