GE’s New “Flexible” Factory in India is Changing How We Make Things

by GE Reports

When people talk about the future of manufacturing, they usually have Germany, Japan and the United States in mind, not India. That’s about to change. GE has invested over $200 million in a new “flexible factory” that will produce diverse products, from jet engine parts to locomotive components, for four different GE businesses all under one roof for the first time.

GE’s New “Flexible” Factory in India  (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

Wind turbine hub assembly at GE’s new flexible factory in Pune, India  (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

The plant, which is located in Pune, near Mumbai in western India, covers 67 acres, an area equal to 38 football fields. It will employ 1,500 workers who will share production lines, support infrastructure and equipment like 3D printers and laser inspection technology. Besides making jet engine and locomotive technology, they will also assemble wind turbines and build water treatment units for the oil and gas and agriculture industries. “The plant will allow us to quickly adjust production as demand comes in, using the same people and space,” says Banmali Agrawala, president of CEO of GE South Asia.

Top image: Wind turbine hub assembly at GE’s new flexible factory in Pune, India. Above: Locomotive turbochargers. (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

Locomotive turbochargers  (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

This flexible “multi-modal” factory, which opened last Saturday, is as groundbreaking for India as it is for GE. It’s the first application of the concept that GE calls the “brilliant factory,” in which factory equipment and computers talk to each other over the Industrial Internet in real time, share information, and make decisions to preserve quality and prevent downtime. In such a factory, production lines are digitally connected to supply, service and distribution networks to maintain optimal production. “The brilliant factory is more than 3D printing parts from digital files, which we already do,” says Christine Furstoss, global technology director at GE Global Research. “We can build a factory that can make itself better.”

Small parts CNC machining section of the plant. (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

Small parts CNC machining section of the plant. (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

The idea to build the first iteration of such a plant in India made sense to GE, because the company wanted to harmonize its operations there, gain size and scale quickly, and support its suppliers. “We have too many small suppliers and their ability to leverage size and scale becomes a problem,” Agrawala says. “The multi-modal plant is good for us and good for them. It will give us a chance to invest in the right tools, processes and training, keep our machines utilized, and develop new products faster and cheaper. It will also give us a chance to experiment and try new things.”

The flexible factory also fits into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” campaign. Modi, who attended the opening, wants to boost the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP to 25 percent by 2022, create 100 million new jobs, and alleviate poverty.

Wind turbine head waiting for assembly. (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

Wind turbine head waiting for assembly. (Photo credit to Farhad Bomanjee)

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GE Reports is a daily, award-winning online magazine published by GE. The website and its companion Twitter handle feature stories about innovation, science and technology, as well as viewpoints on important issues regarding GE and the world.  http://www.gereports.com/

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GE {NYSE: GE} works on things that matter. The best people and the best technologies taking on the toughest challenges. Finding solutions in energy, health and home, transportation and finance. Building, powering, moving and curing the world. Not just imagining. Doing. GE works.  For more information, visit the company’s website at www.ge.com.

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