Harvard Business Review dedicated the entire March issue to stories focused on “Reinventing America” and what the U.S. was “doing right” to whet its competitive edge. “We have called on some of the world’s most original thinkers to explain the competitiveness challenge America faces and to point the way forward,” Adi Ignatius, HBR editor in chief said.
One of the thinkers approached by HBR was GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. The cover of the magazine features his story on how GE was able to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. from China and open a new production line at GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville, Kentucky, the first in the city in five decades.
Immelt said that human innovation, along with technical innovation, such as the materials processes employed at GE Aviation, were key to the company’s American manufacturing success and the nation’s industrial renewal. In Louisville that meant hiring more than 300 industrial designers and engineers, tearing down “functional silos,” and replacing them with “one team” mentality. “Designers, engineers and assembly-line workers together determine the best way to meet their goals; they own the metrics,” Immelt said.
He wrote that managers “post their action items and deliverables for all to see, and employees have a strong sense of accountability. If they conceive an idea for redesigning an appliance that weighs less and has fewer components and lower material costs, they can build it.” Immelt wrote that GE workers in Louisville used this method to revamp a 25-year old dishwasher line. They reduced production time by 68 percent and cut the manufacturing space needed by more than 80 percent.
As a result, “at GE we are outsourcing less and producing more at home,” Immelt wrote. “When we are deciding where to manufacture, we ask, ‘Will our people and technology in the U.S. provide us with a competitive advantage?’ Increasingly the answer is yes.”
Read the story online here. It will be available for free until February 17.