Smart manufacturing finds a home in Tennessee
Smart manufacturing is on the rise throughout the U.S. as companies use sensors and software to save time and cut costs. Some states are clear centers of gravity for smart manufacturing, and Tennessee is one of them.
This week Chinese industrial giant Haier, which owns GE Appliances, said it will add 210 jobs in Selmer, Tennessee. The workers will make Zoneline hotel air conditioner units, which were previously made in Louisville, KY. The Zoneline units were made at GE Appliance Park in Louisville from 1967 until 1981, when production was moved overseas. In 2015, Zoneline came back to Louisville, but now Haier is moving production to Selmer, where it already manufactures GE’s Monogram refrigerators and freezers. The state of Tennessee
Haier, which has been working on smart manufacturing systems for five years, is in good company in Tennessee. Smart manufacturing pioneer GM is adding jobs at its Spring Hill, TN plant, and Tennessee Tech University has recently launched an advanced manufacturing center with a focus on industrial robotics.
Ironically, Haier is taking the Zoneline manufacturing unit away from another internet of things research center, located just a few miles from GE Appliance Park. GE Appliances launched a miniature factory called FirstBuild in 2014 to test and prototype new ideas in the world of home appliances.
Not surprisingly, FirstBuild researchers have been studying ways that the internet of things can make homes smarter. The team is working on sensors and automation for home appliances, and has even created a talking washing machine for those who find laundry a lonely job.
FirstBuild is a hub for innovation, but it is not a smart manufacturing facility. And while the innovations coming out of the lab may be big moneymakers someday, products like the Zoneline AC units are in high demand right now, and Haier wants to make them as efficiently as possible. The company clearly sees efficiency in co-locating Zoneline with Monogram, which is investing almost $10 million in the new manufacturing unit.
Image source: The Business Journals