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General Electric: Peebles, Ohio


General Electric’s jet engine testing facility in Peebles, Ohio has found ways to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by implementing Lean methods, while also producing significant cost savings. Lean events contributed to the following successes at the facility:

  • Reduced fuel consumption for GE90 engine testing from 20,000 gallons to 10,000 gallons.
  • Produced 5,000 metric tons less of GHG emissions from the GE90 in 2007 compared to 2006.
  • Achieved cost savings of over $1,000,000 due to fuel use reduction.
  • Reduced GHG emissions from the CFM testing cycle by 1,600 metric tons annually.
  • Streamlined engine balancing process and troubleshooting techniques.

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Jet Engine Testing in Peebles, OH

General Electric (GE) applies Lean manufacturing methods in its businesses - both manufacturing processes and transactional situations. Recently, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions became a major target for some of the lean activities undertaken by the company. GE’s plant in Peebles, Ohio, is a leader within the company in applying lean to address GHG emissions.  The Peebles facility is a jet engine test facility that spans 7,000 acres of woodland and runs tests in the open air. The amount of testing conducted at Peebles is directly related to the amount of business airlines are doing, and recently the aviation business has been on an upward trend. In the case of Peebles, more engine testing means more jet fuel consumption, which leads to an increase in GHG emissions. As such, Peebles has focused on finding ways to continue growing in business while managing its GHG emissions, and these reductions have also resulted in significant cost savings.

The Peebles facility began production testing in the mid-1980s, and currently tests 1,200 production engines per year. The facility estimates that 1,400 engines will be tested in 2008, followed by 1,500 in 2009, along with a continual increase in engine size. Peebles generally receives the most payback after newly instituting a program, and thus, each year as a program matures it becomes more challenging to improve costs. For 2007, Peebles saw a 17 percent improvement in cost and the facility has found the benefits to be recurring, because when an improvement is made to one engine it can then be applied to every engine tested thereafter within that engine family.

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Lean Implementation

Peebles has successfully implemented Lean methods in order to reduce GHG emissions, and has also tied Lean directly to cost savings. Planning for Lean events at Peebles begins six to eight weeks in advance; the facility believes that in order to conduct the most effective Lean events preparation should include defining what all the issues are, conducting a preliminary value stream mapping (VSM) exercise before the event, and holding action item meetings. Lean events at Peebles may also include pre-production planning (3P), 5S, and numerous mini actions.

The site also holds that when conducting a Lean event, it is vital to invite everyone who has a job function related to the problem or area being explored. For jet engine testing, this can include engineers, test specialists, planners, and oil and dynamics engineers. Involving everyone in the process allows the employees to get out on the shop floor and thoroughly examine the entire process. This also ensures that those who implement the changes are directly involved in designing a solution; it is this inclusion element of the Lean process that Peebles says makes their Lean events so successful. 

One recent Lean event at the facility focused on the GE90 engine, which is the best selling engine for Boeing 777s. As a result of this event, Peebles was able to run the GE90 at 10,000 gallons of fuel, down from 20,000 gallons. In 2007, Peebles will test 165 GE90s, and, after Lean events, will save 3,000 gallons of jet fuel per engine, or 500,000 gallons total. This led to cost savings of $1,000,000 for the business. These Lean processes are effective at helping the facility reduce GHG emissions. In 2007, testing of the GE90 will produce 5,000 metric tons less of GHG emissions than the emissions produced in 2006. Peebles tests more CFM engines than the GE90, with 650 slated to be tested in 2007, and Lean methods have helped save 274 gallons of fuel per CFM engine and 1,600 metric tons of GHG emissions annually from the CFM testing cycle. Lean events have also been used to streamline the CFM testing cycle; the entire process used to span five days, but now can be done in less than one day.

One step in the GE90 testing cycle involves balancing the engine. Prior to Lean events, the engine had to be turned on three separate times in order to complete the balancing process. Lean methods helped Peebles develop a new balancing process that only requires the engine be turned on once, which helps reduce both fuel consumption and GHG emissions. Lean events have also produced improvements in the jet engine testing facility’s troubleshooting techniques; whereas the facility’s old troubleshooting process required the engine to be running, the new process allows troubleshooting to occur while the engine is not running.

While focusing on ways to reduce GHG emissions, Peebles also concentrates on ergonomics and safety. The facility follows the philosophy of making things safer regardless of whether or not it saves the facility money. Peebles has also explored how it could share its Lean experiences so that other GE businesses can apply Lean to their processes. Other facilities have been able to reap benefits as a result of applying Lean techniques applied to test operations at Peebles, and the facility is proud to be able to contribute to the overall success and growth of the company. GE Peebles is currently applying Lean methods to development; however, development involves a more creative process, more variation, and is trial and error based, making it harder to identify improvements, while on the production side test parameters are easier to identify.

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Looking Toward the Future

The Peebles facility has very specific goals in regards to future GHG emissions reductions, which follow a closely monitored set of metrics.  In GE’s Ecomagination report, the company made a public commitment to maintain GHG emissions at 2004 levels and reduce them further by one percent by 2012. GE holds all of its businesses to this company-wide goal, including the Aviation business – the organizational home of the Peebles facility. In 2004, Peebles used four million gallons of jet fuel; in 2012 the testing facility is scheduled to use 12 million gallons – a threefold increase. As the aviation field turns to bigger planes, and thus larger engines, Peebles will be testing larger engines in the future, which will consume more fuel and emit more GHGs. As such, Peebles faces a challenge in attempting to grow their business but maintain sight of GE’s corporate-wide emissions goal. In order to master this balancing act, GE plans to implement GHG reducing projects elsewhere in the company, such as Treasure Hunts, which is an internal energy auditing process leveraged from Toyota that identifies energy reduction opportunities within a facility, to offset Peebles’ growth in emissions and the facility itself plans to continue to explore ways to implement Lean manufacturing techniques in its jet engine testing cycle.

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