Three strategy lessons from GE’s decline
By James E. Schrager -It may be too early to write an obituary for General Electric, but only just. In the past few years, the company has gone from iconic American corporate titan and darling of Wall Street to a humbled, awkward, oversized giant. In June 2018, GE was kicked out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the blue-chip club of the United States’ largest public companies. It had been a member since the stock gauge was launched in 1896. Some analysts have GE on bankruptcy watch.
To those who have been paying attention, this has been a long, slow decline. In fact, GE never had much of a chance once Jack Welch retired as chairman and CEO in 2001. That wasn’t because of bad luck or lackluster management. Instead, Welch’s perfectly brilliant growth strategy had simply run its course.
Welch’s great mistake was to fail to plan for the “end of history”—what happens when the golden goose stops laying. The story is worth revisiting not just because it explains the deterioration of GE. It also holds three powerful lessons about corporate strategy:
- All growth from any single market or technology will end. Companies that endure are those that plan for this reality.
- If you are successful, many will copy your success. Companies that continue to prosper update and adapt their strategies.
- Smart corporate strategies are flexible and nimble, enabling action rather than constraining it.
Posted in Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, How to, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Capital, Chicago Booth, GE, Internet, Manufacturing, Skills, Technology
Can You Hear Me Now? New GE Voices Site Gives Employees, Partners A Place To Learn And Speak Up
By Maureen O’Hagan – When William “Mo” Cowan was named GE’s president of global government affairs and policy in August, he came with a unique perspective, forged through experience that few can claim: He had served for a time as a U.S. senator, filling John Kerry’s empty seat when Kerry became secretary of state.
Cowan now has at his disposal a powerful tool to amplify that engagement. The company just relaunched GE Voices, an online hub where employees, suppliers and others connected to GE can learn more about — and speak up about — some of the key policy issues affecting the company today. Subscribers — there are more than 75,000 of them — can access explainers to see how hot policy issues like tax reform and tariffs affect them personally.
Front and center on the site is an interactive map showing the company’s broad presence in the United States. The first thing you’ll notice is that the GE family is everywhere you look, with dots representing GE’s manufacturing and research facilities, suppliers, educational partners and venture companies stretching from Maine to Florida, New York to California, Alaska to Hawaii. There are dots in all 50 states. more>
Posted in Business, Economy, Education, History, Leadership, Product, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, GE, Leadership, Manufacturing, Productivity, Technology
Leading The Charge: As Battery Storage Sweeps The World, GE Finds Its Place In The Sun
By Tomas Kellner – The “duck curve” has two distinct peaks — one in the morning and the other after sunset — connected by a sagging belly pulled down by the deluge of renewable energy generated by the millions of solar panels sprinkled across California’s roofs and fields.
On a sunny Sunday, this glut of input could even lead to oversupply, a situation where wholesale energy prices drop so much that producers pay utilities to take their energy.
The problem reverses when the sun sinks into the Pacific. Power producers must quickly crank up their plants – many of them burning gas or coal – to replace those missing solar electrons with 11,000 megawatts to keep the state’s homes and businesses humming.
“The peak for solar power generation is at noon,” says Eric Gebhardt, vice president of strategic technology for GE Power. “What if you could store this energy and release it six hours later when the sun goes down and people come home, start cooking dinner and watch TV?” Gebhardt asks.
That’s precisely the point of GE’s Reservoir, a new grid-scale energy storage system the company unveiled today. The grid has to be perfectly balanced, meaning that power supply and demand match, to prevent it from crashing.
The Reservoir will allow producers to “decouple when energy is produced and when it is consumed,” Gebhardt says. “Without it, if you have too much solar during the day, the only option you have is to curtail production.”
The rise of the electric car unleashed innovation in the battery space, and the spread of solar power has brought costs down 50 percent over the last four years, says Keith Longtin, product breakout leader at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, New York. “You are now getting to a point where energy storage starts to make sense,” he says. more>
Industrial Medicine: Cell Therapy Scales Up
By Maggie Sieger – Cell therapy is a new way to treat serious diseases like cancer by extracting living cells from a donor or a patient, changing them so they can recognize and attack diseased cells or deliver treatment, and returning them to the patient’s body. But manufacturing the cells is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. A single dose can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make.
That’s because in the more than 900 ongoing regenerative medicine trials worldwide — a 19 percent jump since 2016 — researchers generally manufacture each patient’s dose of bio-engineered cells by hand. The individualized nature of cell therapy makes it not only prohibitively pricey, but also difficult to scale into commercial production.
That hasn’t been a problem while cell therapy was still confined to research labs. But as medical science advances and regulators approve a growing numbers of modified cell therapies for general use, handcrafting doses won’t be enough. “It’s relatively easy to do 15 or 20 doses by hand, but it’s nearly impossible to efficiently make thousands,” says GE Healthcare’s Aaron Dulgar-Tulloch, director of cell therapy research and development at the Centre for Advanced Therapeutic Cell Technologies (CATCT) in Toronto.
One way to speed the process is GE Healthcare’s FlexFactory for cell therapy. Cellular Biomedicine Group Inc. (CBMG) will be the first company to install this closed, semi-automated system for manufacturing bio-engineered cells in its Shanghai plant and use it to create cell therapies to treat various blood and solid tumor cancers. more>
Posted in Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, Healthcare, Nature, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Cancer, Cell therapy, GE, Health, Manufacturing
Making Waves: GE Unveils Plans To Build An Offshore Wind Turbine The Size Of A Skyscraper, The World’s Most Powerful
By Tomas Kellner – These turbines come with a 12-megawatt generator sitting 150 meters above the waves. Each will be capable of powering 16,000 homes and producing 67 gigawatt-hours per year, based on wind conditions on a typical German North Sea site — that’s 45 percent more energy than any other offshore wind turbine available today.
“We asked ourselves ‘What is the biggest rotor we would still feel comfortable with?’ and then we pushed ourselves some more,” Vincent Schellings recalls. “From a technology perspective, it seems like a stretch. But we know it’s doable. The beauty of the turbine is that it gives an edge over the competition. There’s nothing like this. Not even close.”
The size matters. The huge rotor allows the engineers to catch a lot more wind and ramp up what the industry calls “capacity factor.” This number describes the amount of power the turbine can produce per year at a given site, versus the energy it could have generated had it run full power all the time.
GE’s Haliade-X clocks in at 63 percent, “five to seven points higher than the competition,” Schellings says. “Basically, every point of capacity factor is worth $7 million per 100 megawatts for our customers. That’s a nice upside.” more>
Posted in Business, Economy, Energy, Nature, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Climate change, GE, Renewable energy, Technology, Turbine
Next Stop, Kyiv: Ukrainian Railways’ $1 Billion Deal With
GE Is Set To Dispatch Its Trains Into the Future
By Dorothy Pomerantz – Today (Feb 23, 2018), the Ukrainian government announced it will buy 30 new GE locomotives, which will be built in the U.S. and will arrive in Ukraine for final assembly by the end of the year. The framework agreement, which is valued at over $1 billion, also includes the modernization of existing locomotives in Ukrainian Railways’ fleet, plus additional new GE units over the next decade and a long-term service contract to help maintain them.
The deal is part of a rail-system upgrade the country is undertaking to make sure its $2 billion agricultural sector, which the U.S. Department of Commerce calls “the most promising sector” of the country’s economy, can continue to sell and export the food it produces.
Crucial to this plan: locomotives that work better and don’t break down.
Modernizing a locomotive is like gut-renovating a house, stripping it down to the bare studs and putting in all new walls, stairways and appliances. For Ukrainian Railways, the modernization process will start with the old Soviet-built locomotives that the national rail company has been using for decades.
Workers from GE and local companies will take out the locomotive’s insides, the control system, radiator and engine, until only the bare metal skeleton is left. Then each locomotive will be rebuilt with a shipment of GE equipment, known as a kit. more>
Engine Czech: This University Partnership Is Set To Propel Turboprop Engineering To New Heights
By Tomas Kellner – GE has spent the last 100 years building GE Aviation into a leading force in the aerospace industry. Since it was founded in 1918, the business unit, which brought in $27 billion in revenue last year, has introduced key innovations: It built the first jet engine in the United States and the largest and most powerful jet engines in the world; supplied engine parts for the largest commercial jetliner; and pioneered new materials and technologies like composites and 3D printing.
But it’s been only in the last decade that its Business and General Aviation unit, which is building engines and other technology for private and business planes, decided to pay close attention to the multibillion-dollar turboprop market.
“The turboprop segment has been underserved for decades,” says Brad Mottier, who runs the GE Aviation division. “Airframe customers and operators alike complained about the lack of innovation.”
This week, Mottier and his business said they are inviting the sharpest young engineers in the Czech Republic to help them transform the way we power small aircraft. The company will partner with Prague’s Czech Technical University (CVUT) to help bring up a new generation of aerospace engineers.
Why Prague? The Czech capital is the place where GE decided to jump into the turboprop engine market in 2008, when it took a bet on a storied but struggling turboprop manufacturer, Walter Engines.
Just like the Wright brothers, founder Josef Walter started out fixing and building bicycles before venturing into aviation. Established in 1911, his company ran aviation factories in Italy, Spain, Poland and elsewhere in Europe that produced record-breaking engines for planes used by 13 sovereign air forces. more>
Posted in Business, Economic development, Education, History, Science, Technology, Transportation
Tagged Business improvement, GE, History, skill development, Technology, Turboprop
Meet GE’s Brangelina: For These Two Moms, Job-Sharing Was The Ultimate Power Move
By Amy Kover – Bobbi Eldrid and Lynda Kaufman have shared a job at GE Power since 1998. They knew each other casually as engineers in Schenectady, New York, where GE makes turbines and generators. When they discovered they were both expecting their first children, they began chatting about an age-old struggle. “We were asking ourselves, ‘How do you balance being a mom with having a challenging role and a fulfilling career path?’” Eldrid says.
These two women take their collaborative skills a step further, expertly juggling what may be the longest-running work-share partnership in GE’s history. The colleagues handle every decision, customer interaction and contractual obligation as a single project-management entity — with Eldrid in her office in upstate New York and Kaufman 900 miles away in South Carolina. For 20 years, they’ve split their workweek evenly.
What they came up with was deceptively simple: Both women put in 24 hours per week. The week begins on Sunday evening when the women hold a standing 2-hour phone call to go over their projects. Then Eldrid works Monday through Wednesday, and Kaufman works Wednesday through Friday. The overlapping of their schedules on Wednesdays allows them to collaborate and switch reins seamlessly. more>
Posted in Business, Economy, How to, Leadership
Tagged Business improvement, Collaboration, GE, job sharing, Jobs, Productivity, Skills, Technology
Power Play: This Software Takes The Guesswork Out Of Energy Demand
By Bruce Watson – Predicting power demand used to be a simple science: People use more power during certain times — like the morning, when they cook breakfast and turn on their lights — and less during others, like when they hit the sack. Relying on predictable sources of electricity — like gas- and coal-fired power plants — utilities were able to balance supply and demand with some fairly straightforward math based on historical records and other data.
But the steady rise of renewable energy made the power landscape infinitely more complicated. On the supply side, changes in wind or cloud cover can sharply shift the amount of power available. Demand has also become harder to nail down as more consumers manage their power use with smart thermostats and appliances like connected ACs.
At the same time, market forces demand better power forecasts. Power plants and fuel are expensive, and they don’t want to operate or buy more equipment than they may need. “In some countries, regulators are asking power generators to guarantee the quality of their forecasts,” says Olivier Cognet, CEO of Swiss-based startup Predictive Layer.
“It’s no longer possible to say ‘We’ll sell you 20 turbines and see what they produce.’ It’s ‘We’ll produce x amount of energy by noon, y amount of energy in two hours and z energy in one month.” more>
Posted in Business, Economic development, Economy, Energy, History, Nature, Technology
Tagged Big data, Business improvement, GE, Machine learning, Productivity, Renewable energy, Technology