How GE Appliances is making the switch – and driving transformation
How GE Appliances is making the switch – and driving transformation
With a long history of innovation, GE Appliances is always on the lookout for new technologies to take its operations to the next level. Part of that is introducing electric and autonomous transport in its logistics flow, where GE Appliances, together with Einride, recently deployed full time operations with an autonomous vehicle. Harry Chase, Sr. Director of Central Materials at GE Appliances, shares the company’s learnings and its way towards an integrated, automated logistics flow.
Following a successful and historic pilot in Selmer, TN, GE Appliances are now live with full time, daily autonomous electric operations. The deployment of Einride’s cabless autonomous heavy-duty vehicle entails the transportation of finished goods from GE Appliances’ factory to its warehouse at the Selmer plant.
GE Appliances: 100 years of innovation
Since 1907, GE Appliances, a Haier company, has electrified and modernized life by building innovative, quality products that are trusted in half of all U.S. homes. With its 11 manufacturing facilities and 16,000 employees across the US, GE Appliances has operations in 46 states.
“We are committed to implementing solutions that solve business challenges, make our facilities safer, our jobs better, support our sustainability objectives, and provide data driven insights that increase efficiency. We’re always looking for innovative partners to see where we can go and what we can do with new technology,” says Harry Chase, Sr. Director of Central Materials at GE Appliances.
One of GE Appliances’ innovative partnerships is with Einride – a partnership that started in 2021 focusing on implementing electric and autonomous transport at scale in the US. Since July 2022, GE Appliances has been operating a fleet of connected electric trucks, where the power of digitalization has enabled higher vehicle utilization, increasing the efficiency in material flows from GE Appliances’ logistics center to its factories.
In October 2022, Einride and GE Appliances made history when they successfully completed a public road pilot of Einride’s autonomous electric vehicle. The pilot was the first instance of a cabless autonomous electric vehicle taking to a public road in the US. Following the pilot, the autonomous operations in Selmer have gone from being just a pilot to becoming day-to-day operations in line with Einride’s step by step approach. Einride is continuously exploring the business case of commercializing these operations, where generated learnings are being applied to new use cases of operations – all while moving goods and fulfilling operational flows.
Day-to-day operations: Autonomous flow
GE Appliances and Einride have successfully deployed full time daily operations with an autonomous vehicle, powered by freight operating system Einride Saga. This deployment is part of a larger interoperability project in Selmer to create an electric and automated logistics flow that improves employee ergonomics and safety around the loading docks while increasing efficiency.
“We are moving from implementing one-off solutions addressing various challenges to creating interoperability among systems. The integration of different automated functions creates synergy and builds consistency and synchronization into our processes. We have realized gains in efficiency in material flow, better inventory control, and leveled utilization of our equipment including transportation assets. By also applying digital intelligence, we get the real win of following the goods throughout the flow, creating a cohesive and efficient system,” says Harry Chase.
With the recent integration of Einride's autonomous vehicle, finished goods – in this case air conditioning units commonly found in hotels and multi-family housing – are part of an automated flow that spans from in-factory manufacturing to unloading at the finished goods warehouse. The ambition is to support the movement of units on up to seven shuttles a day, producing zero tailpipe emissions through the autonomous operation. By collaborating with Einride and additional partners like TaskWatch and Slip Robotics, who specialize in automating the docking, loading, and unloading processes, GE Appliances has reduced loading times by 80%.
“Transportation is an integral part of an automated logistics flow, and our partnership with Einride reflects our evolving approach to robotics and automation technology. While we are still in the early stages of developing and integrating these technologies, I’m excited for the continuous development” says Harry Chase.
To ensure a successful launch, Einride has worked in close partnership with the team at GE Appliances, state and county officials, and the National Highway Traffic Safety (NHTSA) administration.
“It has been a pleasure working with Einride on this deployment, they have listened to our needs and helped us get the right infrastructure in place – which is critical in autonomous transportation – by making adjustments to our location and developing solutions that truly support our operations. Einride’s focus on human centered autonomy is also key to success. We have the benefit of having Tiffany Heathcott, Einride’s first remote operator, to ensure that operations run smoothly,” says Harry Chase.
Industry pioneer: Navigating the next technological disruption
With its tradition of innovation, GE Appliances is continuously experimenting and investing in new technologies to stay at the forefront of its industry. With autonomous technologies, this means being a pioneer in the area – navigating challenges head on.
“In order to lead, you have to think ahead and think differently. This is precisely why our partnership with Einride is the perfect match – we share the same mindset when it comes to innovation. Together, we collaborate in real time to solve challenges within our business,” says Harry. “The collaboration, stretching from the initial pilot phase to full time deployment, provides invaluable insights that help us both envision the future of autonomous and electric transport.”
The end game: Eliminating dull and dirty jobs
Since 2016, GE Appliances has invested over $2 billion in new products and technology across nine US plants, two micro factories and throughout its distribution network, including robotics and automation, all while adding 4,000 team members.
“As we continue to grow in the area of robotics and automation, new career pathways and opportunities to upskill our workforce have opened up. Technology should work with and for people to improve their jobs. Our aim is to eliminate those dangerous, dull and dirty jobs, both within and outside our factories and warehouses, allowing our people to focus on high-value tasks,” says Harry.
Through automation, new opportunities will open up, both within operations but also in creating new types of professions such as remote operators who operate the autonomous vehicle through a Remote Interface to ensure safety at all times. Learn more about the job as a remote operator from Tiffany Heathcott.
“We are confident that autonomy will enable us to attract a broader pool of talent, especially among the younger generation who are more used to technology and more interested in maintaining it, as opposed to perhaps driving a truck everyday,” says Harry.
Ready to make the switch? Just leave your details here and an Einride representative will be in touch shortly.
Listen to Harry Chase as he joined Einride Mesh 2023 to talk about the GE Appliances’ insights from its digital, electric, and autonomous operations with Einride as well as the learnings from the first autonomous freight pilot on a US public road.
To watch this video, allow "Marketing" cookies.