GE Invests US $40M in LED Circuit Board Production

The culmination of a three-year, US $40 million investment at GE Lighting’s Hendersonville, N.C. Plant was capped today with the unveiling of a new production area for the manufacture of LED circuit boards. The boards, which were previously outsourced to overseas vendors, bring new capabilities into the plant, while accelerating customer response times.

The boards are the source of light for LED fixtures and are the latest example of the vast transformation of this nearly 60-year-old, one-million-square-foot plant. Over the past three years, the plant has turned itself from a producer of traditional lighting technology to an LED powerhouse, bringing in 12 new LED product and component lines, including canopy lighting, roadway lighting, parking lot area lights, parking lot wall lighters and decorative outdoor products—a list that continues to grow. Today the plant exports nearly 30 percent of its products, illuminating emerging markets like Saudi Arabia, and turning the lights on in popular cities and sites in places like Hungary, Brazil and Canada, as well as many areas in between.

All of the plant’s new LED products provide customers optimal energy savings and lower maintenance costs, while continuing to bring investment and growth to the plant. To meet customer needs in real time, the plant has added more than 100 contract and full-time positions in the last year, which are bringing new opportunities and creating steady work for those in the Hendersonville area. Additional jobs are expected with new investments in 2015.

With a three-year, $40 million investment, GE Lighting's Hendersonville, N.C. Plant unveiled a new production area for the manufacture of LED circuit boards. (All Photos Courtesy of GE)

“Today, the employees of our GE Lighting Hendersonville Plant are helping light cities, stadiums and businesses the world over, from San Diego to Superior, Neb., from the Olympics to local high school stadiums,” says Dave Martin, Hendersonville plant manager. “We not only are transforming the types of technology and products made here, but how quickly we make them and how fast they move off our assembly lines and into service for our customers.”

Prior to the in-house LED circuit board capability, it could take as many as eight weeks to receive a board from an overseas vendor. By insourcing this technology and investing in new, high-tech equipment, the plant can produce the boards in 15 minutes or less, ensuring they find their way into fixtures, and to customers, faster.

In addition to new product lines, the plant has also invested in systems that speed the manufacturing process overall, including a build-to-order “parts-pull system” that utilizes a GE Intelligent Platforms’ Proficy Software suite. Incorporating principles of lean manufacturing, pull replenishment and Six Sigma, the plant’s employees can now ship orders in an average of six days or less, compared with a pretransformation four- to six-week delivery.

Workers inspect LED equipment operations at the plant.

“With the evolution and growing adoption of LEDs, the lighting industry is in the midst of unprecedented transformation,” says Ron Wilson, Global supply chain general manager, who spoke as part of the day’s events. “The employees of this plant are helping us bring the latest LED innovations to market, and the transformation here is one that is truly serving both our business and our customers well.”

The GE Lighting Hendersonville plant is home to approximately 500 employees and contract workers.

On an average day, the Hendersonville team produces and ships about 3,000 lighting systems across the globe. Products include GE’s Evolve™ LED Scalable Cobrahead Roadway Lighting Fixture, which earned the prestigious “Best-in-Class” award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual Next Generation Luminaires Competition and won the 2013 LightFair International Innovation Award category for Parking, Roadway and Area Luminaires. Since it was established in 1955, the Hendersonville plant has put more than 50 million lighting units into service.

A woman inspecting equipment at the plant.
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