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Advanced manufacturing boosts GE Aviation Bromont

Nov. 12, 2013, Bromont, Que. - For GE Aviation Bromont in Bromont, Que., the past quarter-century at the plant has been nothing short of revolutionary.


November 12, 2013
By The Financial Post

“I started here in 1989 and the change is unbelievable,” says Alain
Ouellette, director of operations. “We’ve migrated from a totally manual
operation making 800,000 aircraft engine parts per year, to a highly
automated advanced manufacturing and finishing plant producing almost
three million parts per year — the most productive plant in the GE
Aviation supply chain. The difference is new technology and our
willingness to adapt to it.”

 

The plant’s current output ranges from components for the CFM56
engines for the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 aircraft, to components for
the GEnx engines for the Boeing 787 and Boeing 747-8.

 

The evolution from manual tasks to advanced manufacturing began in the early 1990s.

 

“People had the normal reaction,” says Ouellette. “The idea of
introducing automated processes to the workplace raised concerns about
workers being replaced. We sat down with our workers and convinced them
that if we didn’t evolve and employ state-of-the-art technology, they
might keep their jobs over the short term, but lose them to a global
market. It was the faith of those workers who introduced a whole new era
of productivity at the plant.”

 

While different human operators once introduced slight variations
into the final product, the robotically produced items offer better
process control. Not only has the rate of returned parts decreased
dramatically but the reasons they’re returned are also less significant.

 

The initial fears that workers would lose their jobs proved
groundless. The Bromont plant now employs more than 750 people, more
than it did when automation was introduced.

 

“We offer to retrain any worker involved in a manual process to
oversee the new automated process,” says Ouellette. “I can’t recall a
case where an operator hasn’t adapted to the new technology. Their work
is now safer and their jobs are more secure in a plant that’s become a
key player in the GE Aviation supply chain. I credit our workers for
embracing change and working with management to make our business
prosper.”