The 450,000 square-foot plant will streamline production using data, analytics and software.
WELLAND, Ont. — GE’s Distributed Power business broke ground for its first “brilliant” factory in Canada Aug. 26, a multi-modal plant in Welland, Ont. that will combine digital technology and lean manufacturing to produce power generation machinery for global markets.
The global industrial company founded by Thomas Edison is spending US$165 million on the first phase of the project. The state-of-the-art “Brilliant Factory” will optimize efficiency and streamline production using data, analytics and software. The full investment is estimated to be about $240 million.
The project is to create 220 jobs when the 450,000 square-foot plant is fully operational in 2018, said Scott Parent, senior general manager technology and operations for GE’s Distributed Power business. “[The plant] should be producing by early 2018 and at full load by the end of 2018.”
The plant, on a property that runs one kilometre in length, will manufacture GE Power’s reciprocating gas engines; components for compression, mechanical drive, and power generation; and components for GE transportation diesel engines, but the multi-modal design will also accommodate future production expansion for other GE global businesses including power, oil and gas and transportation.
Parent said production capacity would be about 500 engines a year.
GE is moving the work out of its Waukesha, Wisc. plant, which currently employs 350 people. Heiner Markhoff, president and CEO GE Water and Distributed Power Business, said during a roundtable at the Welland site the company would maintain R&D and engineering in Waukesha.
“[Welland] will run three-dimensional machining simulations for CNC programs, gain real-time analytics to better understand the operating conditions of a machine or a test cell, install lights-out machining, and combine all with advanced lean manufacturing practices,” he said in a release.
The move to Canada was in part because of the help provided by Export Development Canada (EDC), Canada’s export credit agency, and the absence of an export credit agency in the US.
Welland’s proximity to four US border points, the Welland Canal’s access to seaports via the St. Lawrence Seaway and a local, educated workforce were also cited as points in the city’s favour.
The Ontario government provided a conditional grant of almost $26.6 million through its Jobs and Prosperity Fund.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, among a contingent of federal, provincial, regional and local politicians on hand for the event, also noted providing a single point of contact that handled matters between the company and the various levels of government was key to GE selecting Welland for the investment.
She announced the province would be launching a Strategic Investment Office in the fall that will provide the same services to companies looking to invest in the province.