GE Aviation Expands Michigan Footprint by Opening Brilliant Factory with 3D Printing Capabilities in Muskegon

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There was a sense of celebration in Muskegon earlier this week as GE Aviation held the grand opening for its newest Brilliant Factory in the Michigan town. The 35,000-square-foot factory is a physical representation of the company’s $14.5 million investment to stimulate economic growth in the region, where GE has been working to keep its plants running efficiently through analytics and data. It was quite the star-studded event: in addition to John Bowman, the general manager for the GE Aviation Supply Chain, and The Honorable Steve Gawron, the Mayor of Muskegon, Senator Debbie Stabenow and State Senator Goeff Hansen were on hand for the opening, along with The Honorable Gary Nelund, the Mayor of Norton Shores, Michigan State Representatives Holly Hughes and Terry Sabo, several local officials, and Jennifer Nelson, the executive Vice President for Business Development for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

GE90-94B Engine

Parts for the GE90 jet engine will be manufactured at the new facility, along with development work for new programs.

Senator Stabenow said, “This state-of-the-art GE Aviation facility is creating new advanced manufacturing jobs and supporting our local economy. It’s exciting to see Muskegon County and Norton Shores leading the way in making components for GE’s most powerful jet engine.”

In 2015, 400 GE90 jet engines were retrofitted with a 3D printed T25 sensor housing, and the GE90 currently being used on the Boeing 777 is the most powerful jet engine in the world, having logged over 67 million flight hours with a total of 2,500 engines currently in service.

So, you might be asking yourself, what’s a Brilliant Factory? It’s one of the many sub-categories, including Advanced Fabrication, 3D Printing, and Integrated Design, of GE Ventures’ Advanced Manufacturing & Enterprise category; the entire category was the main focus of an Advanced Manufacturing Summit held in late 2016 in Washington D.C.

Bowman said, “The new facility in Muskegon is the first of several GE Brilliant Factories being built throughout the world where machine downtime has been reduced to less than 1%.”

He continued, “GE’s brilliant factories combine the newest technologies, from advanced analytics to 3D printing to collaborative robots that work side-by-side with people. The facility represents an investment in advanced manufacturing — our workforce is constantly adapting and updating their skills for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The main idea behind GE’s Brilliant Factory is to take engineering, manufacturing, design, distribution, supply chain, and services, and put them all together into a single intelligent system, which collects and analyzes all of the data from those disciplines. The data is used to make factories smarter, and improve the yield, quality, and throughput, by, as stated by GE, “combining things like sensor enablement, digital design, and factory and supply chain optimization.”

While Brilliant Factories also employ advanced processes and tools, sensor-enabled manufacturing lines are busy feeding all of the collected data to the company’s cloud-based Predix platform, so GE is able to analyze the sensor data in real time and figure out when a machine could break, and take efforts to fix it before it fails, saving valuable time and money. Thanks to Brilliant Factories, unplanned downtime on the shop floor for issues like machine failure have gone down by 20%, while overall product reliability has gone up. A digital thread runs through the Brilliant Factory, through the value chain and across the company, offering an integrated product view for the entire manufacturing lifecycle.

Last year, GE Aviation announced that it planned to expand its current presence in Muskegon, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation was on board, offering an $800,000 grant to GE for the expansion. In addition, the City of Norton Shores also provided GE with a 12-year 50% property tax abatement.

Nelson said, “We are proud of our association with GE Aviation and the GE Aviation-Muskegon team. We are also quite proud of helping to foster an environment that supports growth in the aerospace field, putting us among the most attractive and competitive aerospace manufacturing states in the nation. GE Aviation’s significant investment and job-creation commitment are encouraging signs of the future economic success of Muskegon and the state of Michigan.”

The new Brilliant Factory in Muskegon has expanded GE Aviation’s footprint in the city to about 220,000 square feet, which includes its two existing manufacturing spaces and the new facility. 90 new employees were hired by GE to work at the advanced manufacturing facility, and ten more will be hired soon, which brings the total number of employees at the three GE Aviation buildings in Muskegon to nearly 800.

“Muskegon is leading the way for GE’s transformation in the way we use big data to run our plants more efficiently and effectively,” said Bowman.

To learn more about GE’s Brilliant Factory, take a look at the video:

Discuss in the Brilliant Factory forum at 3DPB.com.

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