Building a home to modern design and manufacturing is challenging enough. But building that during a global pandemic, when your business is receiving record customer orders, while improving costs and safety milestones?
Phil Wickler, chief transformation officer for GE Aerospace, pronounced the achievement “miraculous.”
“This is a culmination of years of hard work,” Wickler said Friday before opening his company’s new 280,000-square-foot Research Boulevard production facility.
GE Aerospace celebrated the plant Friday, welcoming guests and employees to mark the moment when the company consolidated several local sites to unite design, engineering and manufacturing functions under one roof. About 400 people work at the building.
Before the facility was built in the Miami Valley Research Park, GE leased four buildings and owned three in the Beavercreek area. Company leaders said in late 2020 and early 2021 that they intended to sell off some properties and exit leases of other buildings.
“This is one of our only sites in the world where we have our product management team, our engineering team and our supply chain team under one roof,” Wickler said. “Because the only way you can win is with a cross-functional team.”
Motorists passing by the plant at 4230 Research Blvd. Friday afternoon might have seen a GE9X commercial jet engine on a truck flatbed parked in the plant’s parking lot. That engine — the most powerful commercial jet engine in the world, according to GE’s tests at its Peebles, Ohio facility — has several components that were designed and made in Beavercreek.
“The work completed here was outstanding, and I’m truly honored to have been a part of that process,” said Brian Debruin, site leader at the plant.
It’s no accident the plant is in Beavercreek. The site traces its history to Ervin Nutter, who started an aviation business in that community in 1950. Nutter’s Elano Corp. had 600 employees in 1985 when he sold it to GE, then known as “General Electric.” Unison Industries merged with Elano in 2004. (Mr. Nutter died in January 2000.)
Bob Stone, mayor of Beavercreek, recalled working for Elano in the summer as a younger man.
“Those little tubing jet that you see on that jet, my job was to do inventory,” Stone said. “And I’ve never stopped counting since.”
GE Aerospace has been investing in its Dayton-area sites lately. This week, the company said it will invest up to $20 million into its Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center (or “EPISCenter”) to build a new test cell, bringing to nearly $100 million the amount that has been invested into the University of Dayton campus facility in the past decade.
Construction will begin on the new cell within the River Park Drive facility this summer. It will be that plant’s seventh test cell.
In all, GE said it expects to invest more than $335 million in U.S. facilities this year, including $32 million in Ohio facilities.
GE Aerospace is a provider of jet engines, components and systems for commercial and military aircraft with a global service network backing those products. The company and its joint ventures have an installed base of more than 40,000 commercial and 26,000 military aircraft engines.