Louisville-based GE Appliances, a Haier company, announced recently that it is going to invest $60 million to create a Manufacturing Center of Excellence for production of water heaters at its Camden factory, South Carolina to start over the production of water heaters. The company plans to be the leading manufacturer of large home appliances in the U.S. and start building more products over there.
The plant which currently only produces refrigerators needs a bit of renovation and retooling efforts to enable the manufacturing of water heaters and also has prospects of future growth as well. “We always want to gain products, not lose them,” said Dean “Dino” Driskell, president of IUE-CWA Local 83761.
According to news, GE Appliance is also planning to shift refrigeration production which is now at Camden to GE Appliance’s Decatur, Alabama, plant which should solidify the production of refrigerators at the Louisville factory, according to Driskell. The investment is moving to another state without the union labor which is kind of regret as well as relief for the 3,300 workers as they will be able to retain their jobs at Appliance Park in Louisville. “Of all our products, refrigeration is the one that I worry about most,” Driskell added further. Of the nine GE Appliances plants nationwide, three of them are already making refrigeration products.
The Camden plant has a plan to retain its estimated 150 employees, who will tear down the current line and replace it with the new equipment, spokeswoman Julie Wood said.
It is expected that, the first water heaters production in the new plant may start in the fourth quarter of 2020. The South Carolina plant will have one manufacturing line making multiple water heater models of different sizes, Wood said.
It will be the only GE Appliances plant in the U.S. making the new product line, Wood added. The GE plant in Camden has been open for about 20 years and has about 150 employees. The announcement is part of a larger readjustment within the company. China-owned GE Appliances has invested $600 million nationwide making production changes, resulting in 1,200 new jobs since May 2018, Wood said.
“The water heater market is a big opportunity for us,” Wood said, with 8 million units sold annually. GE Appliances has made smaller, high-efficiency water heaters in the past without much demand. This will be the first time for the company making the more predominant tank-style versions, Wood added.