GE and Local Motors Partner to Create a New Business Model for the Manufacturing Industry

{NYSE: GE} and Local Motors have partnered to create FirstBuild™ a new model for the manufacturing industry that accelerates new product introductions. Through co-creation and the FirstBuild microfactory, which officially opened July 24 in Louisville, Kentucky, the FirstBuild on-line and local community members can design products and help solve engineering challenges that will fast track community-driven innovation to market.

We caught up with Alex Tepper, Global Director of Innovation at GE, to discuss FirstBuild™ in an exclusive AMazing® Q&A session.


AMazing®: Alex, thank you for taking time to share the latest FirstBuild news with us and showing us how FirstBuild is bringing co-creation and micro-manufacturing to GE’s appliances business. What makes FirstBuild unique? And what do both GE and Local Motors offer that makes FirstBuild robust?

Alex: This coupling of community co-creation with micro-manufacturing is a unique model as is the partnership between GE and Local Motors. Local Motors, a start-up that has seven years of experience in combining co-creation and micro-manufacturing in the automotive space, paired with GE’s strong manufacturing expertise and appliances engineering expertise, has led to the creation of this fundamentally new approach to design and manufacturing. We know it’s going to be a breakthrough new business model that will be beneficial to the consumers and the industry alike.

AMazing®: GE is at the forefront of building consumer-connected, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. Will this business model be utilized in other business groups?

Alex: Just think about the potential—at its core, this business model uses co-creation platforms and crowdsourcing to help solve problems that fast-track innovation to market. Working with an online community to perfect a design and produce a small batch of the product can expand way beyond the appliances world. Then when you combine community co-creation with micro-manufacturing to quickly get small batches of product out to market and generating real in-market feedback it is a powerful way to unleash creativity and its applications for businesses are endless.

FirstBuild™ Demonstration Kitchen (Photo courtesy of GE)

FirstBuild™ Demonstration Kitchen (Photo courtesy of GE)

AMazing®: We understand an objective of FirstBuild is to solve engineering challenges. Is it typical of a co-creative process to yield better results, faster?

Alex: By tapping into FirstBuild’s community, we are able to engage the fresh perspectives of brilliant people around the world with different backgrounds. By nature, engineers at the GE Appliances factory tackle problems very differently than a Slovakian architecture student (one of the finalists in our recent challenge). That example alone shows that we are looking for a diverse community of engineers, designers, makers and home enthusiasts. This model of tapping into the crowd will yield better designs, vetted by the crowd, and speed time from mind to market.

AMazing®: How can small and mid-size businesses gain more information about this new manufacturing model?

Alex: Follow us on!  We have a very active blog and social media presence. Tap into our community to learn and experience the whole process. Then begin experimenting. If we can do it at GE, you can do it in your smaller company (and let’s be honest, who isn’t smaller than GE?).

AMazing®: Share with us details about the microfactory that recently opened. Why did GE choose Louisville for the location? What does the microfactory look like inside?

Alex: The new microfactory just opened on the University of Louisville’s (UoL) Belknap campus last week and it is amazing! GE chose Louisville for a number of reasons. First, GE and UofL, which owns the microfactory building, have plans to create an Advanced Manufacturing hub so students can conduct research and get first-hand training on the latest additive manufacturing technologies. Second, the college campus location will enable immediate access to engineering, advanced manufacturing and other student activities to build a strong local network of on-site community members.

FirstBuild™  (Photo courtesy of GE)

FirstBuild™ Workshop (Photo courtesy of GE)

AMazing®: Which additive manufacturing (AM) technologies will be available for use in the micro-factory? What other advanced technologies will be available?

Alex: The Microfactory has MakerBot and Stratasys printers. The MakerBots are great for testing part fit and function, while the Stratasys is capable of creating 3D printed molds. These 3D printed molds can be used for injection molding, blow molding, and framing for silicone molds. The molds allow you to create prototype parts that can verify functionality very quickly.

AMazing®: What products are already being created by the FirstBuild community? When should we expect these products to hit the market?

FirstBuild™  (Employee (Photo courtesy of GE)

FirstBuild™ Microfactory Oven Installation (Photo courtesy of GE)

Alex: The first products hitting the market include “Smart Pitcher,” a pitcher that stores a water dispenser inside a refrigerator’s fresh food compartment; “Space Saving, No-Stall Disposer,” a sink disposal unit that helps prevent grinding objects by accident; “Easy-Slide Oven Door,” an oven that eliminates reaching into the oven’s hot cavity for dishes; and “LineCook,” an oven that scans the barcode of prepared food and automatically sets the cooking method, time and temperature. Consumers will be able to buy these products on-site at the FirstBuild store in Louisville or online at  For additional information press here.

AMazing®: Tell us how people can get involved in FirstBuild and the challenges. What challenges are currently open?

Alex: Getting involved is easy—you just sign up at We just wrapped up one challenge and are in the middle of another one. So anyone can participate. We just announced the winners of the Micro-Kitchen Challenge, which called on participants to design a micro-kitchen for a smaller living space like a city apartment. The Indoor Grilling Challenge, which is still open for participation, calls on participants to design and engineer the ultimate indoor grill to address the difficulty of all weather grilling and apartment dwelling.

AMazing®: Finally, what career advice would you offer an individual interested in working with additive manufacturing technologies?

Alex: The worlds of design and manufacturing are changing. Models of open collaboration like FirstBuild are very different but they’re here to stay. Additive technology is allowing us to manifest designs in the physical realm at a speed that was previously impossible. Learn as much as you can about this space and experiment with both sides of this new business model: open innovation and additive and micro-manufacturing. Join a Techshop, participate in an open innovation community, explore or contribute to Makerbot’s…try out these new models yourself!

Alex, thank you very much for your participation. We are very grateful for the opportunity to share more about the FirstBuild community with our audience.


About Alex Tepper
Alex Tepper is GE’s Global Director of Innovation where he works across all the GE the businesses to design and bring to market breakthrough products and new business models. He collaborates closely with the GE Global Research Center and externally with entrepreneurs and thought leaders to identify and commercialize new product ideas.

Alex has also been helping lead the GE Open Innovation (crowd-sourcing) Center of Excellence and the Advanced Manufacturing strategy which spans high-end 3D printing to our involvement with makers and hardware hackers. Prior to GE, Alex was at American Express where he led a marketing group and then the Strategy and Innovation group for the consumer division. Between GE and AMEX, he spent a year at a non-profit advising entrepreneurs in the developing world.

About GE Appliances
GE Appliances is at the forefront of building innovative, energy-efficient appliances that improve people’s lives. GE Appliances’ products include refrigerators, freezers, cooking products, dishwashers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, water filtration systems and water heaters. General Electric works on things that matter to build a world that works better. For more information on GE Appliances, visit

Contact Information
Kim Freeman
GE Consumer & Industrial – Americas
502 452 7819 FaxMobile

333 E. Brandeis Ave.
Louisville, KY 40208 USA

About GE
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

About TechShop, Inc.
Founded in October 2006, TechShop is a membership-based, do-it-yourself (DIY) workshop and fabrication studio providing access to a vibrant community of creative people and more than $1 million worth of high quality machines, tools and software. TechShop offers classes, workshops, instruction and meet-ups for people of all ages and skill levels. TechShop is based in San Jose, Calif., with locations nationwide. Techshop

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