March 26, 2023

There’s a lot of hype about all things digital in manufacturing. You can’t tune in to industry media or show up at a trade show without being inundated with stories (and sales pitches galore) about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4).

But how does all that play out within the real world of actually making stuff?

GENERAL ELECTRIC Appliances (GEA) offers a great example of that. Their digital transformation began about five years ago, led by Dave Leone, Senior Director, Dimensional Management and his team, who won this year’s first place gold award in the Institute of Commercial and Systems Engineers Cup competition. What started as a humble benchmarking of the automotive business in 2015 in a search for better methods within product design and measurement has become a company-wide effort that will touches all facets of the business.

The kind of wholesale adoption associated with advanced technology this represents isn’t easy for the startup. It’s a great deal tougher for a company that’s over 100 years old. GEA dates back to 1907, and for most of its history it was part of General Electric proper. Today, GEA is a part of Haier Smart Home.

GEA’s Appliance Park headquarters and main manufacturing center in Louisville, Kentucky, goes back to 1951. The 750-acre site hosts a total of 8, 100 employees, including 1, 600 style and manufacturing engineers who help develop and produce the company’s lines of washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, and other home and commercial appliances. GEA also has other manufacturing vegetation in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina plus Tennessee, as well 13 U. S. distribution centers along with other operations around the world.

Despite more than a century of successful business, though, just before the Haier acquisition those engineers saw the need for a change. “It wasn’t just us being curious and wanting in order to explore, ” Leone explained. “People were asking, ‘Is there the better way? ’ As we looked around, we asked ourselves, ‘What if an appliance manufacturer could adopt automotive methods–could all of us disrupt our industry? ’”

The original focus of the efforts was on design and production tolerances. The particular automotive industry benchmarking that started in 2015 led to GEA’s first adoption of digital technology, 3D scanning, within 2016. That will resulted in the particular establishment associated with a dimensional control group in 2017, and the addition of further electronic tools plus processes more than the next several many years. “Just about anything you can point a scanner in, you can digitize, ” said Leone. “That unlocks the particular door to digital engineering. We refer to it because our single source associated with truth. ”

Jim Beary, GEA’s Technical Expert and Instructor with regard to GD& T, Dimensional Control, Gaging plus Inspection, agreed. “Before we all started, everything was pretty one-dimensional, ” he stated. “What our own digital transformation has done is really a 3D transformation, moving us from an one -dimensional engineering space to a three-dimensional one. Engineering is now being done wholesale in a 3D environment, using things like ATOS blue light scanners for digitizing and Polyworks software regarding 3D inspection. We get so much rich information. ”

“It has fundamentally redefined how we design products, ” Leone added. “It offers led to a tremendous amount of innovation, which has fundamentally changed the company. ”

The up-front digital style and scanning capabilities have resulted in very much broader applications of digital technology. “With 3D scanning, you create a digital representation from the physical part, ” mentioned Leone. “You can overlay that with the CAD design and produce a ‘heat’ or ‘color’ map that visually shows how well the actual component matches the design tolerances. It’s one of the founding technologies of this particular entire movement. Problems that historically would have taken weeks or even months to solve, today can now be resolved within hours or days. The guys who’ve been around a long time say, ‘This feels like cheating. ’”

“When you’re talking about investing two billion dollars, you want in order to be able to point to the ways you’ve improved quality, manufacturing, and so on, and Dave’s team delivered, ” added Beary. “They set us up for additional advances like digital product inspection, electronic data collaboration, digital tooling validation, plus 3D tolerance analysis, where we may digitally predict how almost all the parts of an assembly fit together. Engineers don’t want to look at the spreadsheet anymore. They say, ‘Show me the color map. ’ Once we stepped into this digital world, it grew roots throughout the entire company. ”

The digital change has indeed touched just about all aspects of GEA’s business. “The impact is that we now have end-to-end digital engineering, ” Leone described. “That provides improved our product quality and craftsmanship, and it has enhanced our program executions. It has accelerated our root-cause analysis, and enabled us to style and build beautiful products that are inside half the particular homes in the United States. ”

“Our programs are going faster because of these tools, ” said Leone. “We’re finding the same entrepreneurial mindset in some other pockets associated with our company, like manufacturing and submission, and that’s led in order to a ton of success for us. Democratizing the data is a theme throughout our business. It takes out some of the bureaucracy.

“We’re continuing to build, ongoing to innovate, ” Leone continued. “There’s still the lot of room to improve. We are growing the capabilities of our people, processes, and systems. Excellence follows expertise. We’re in half the homes in the U. S., plus we want to be in the particular other half. We’ll get there simply by using these tools to make great items. ”

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