These past few weeks have been rather noteworthy for General Electric in terms of acquisitions, most of which point toward continued investment and leveraging of advanced technology for industrial manufacturing and transportation service’s needs.
In late August, GE’s Transportation business unit announced its acquisition of ShipExpress, a provider of Cloud-based software that supports transportation, industrial and commodities businesses to more efficiently collaborate with supply chain partners. According to the announcement, this deal will extend GE Transportation’s portfolio of technology directed at the logistics supply chain, expanding the opportunities to deliver incremental information and transactional services for railroad customers. The acquisition further deepens GE Transportation’s domain expertise, enriching the division with a talent pool of nearly 200 industry, technical, and software development experts.
Last week, GE additionally announced plans to acquire two premiere suppliers of metal-based 3D printing devices, Arcam AB and SLM Solutions Group AG for a combined $1.4 billion. Both companies will report into the firm’s GE Aviation unit, an indication for further leveraging of additive manufacturing techniques in the production of aircraft engines. In addition, GE Aviation will lead the integration effort and the GE Store initiative to drive broader additive manufacturing applications across GE.
According to the announcement, Arcam AB, based in Mölndal, Sweden, invented the electron beam melting machine for metal-based additive manufacturing, and also produces advanced metal powders. Its customers are in the aerospace and healthcare industries. Arcam generated $68 million in revenues in 2015 with approximately 285 employees. In addition to its Sweden site, Arcam operates AP&C, a metal powders operation in Canada, and DiSanto Technology, a medical additive manufacturing firm in Connecticut, as well as sales and application sites worldwide.
SLM Solutions Group, based in Lübeck, Germany, produces laser machines for metal-based additive manufacturing with customers in the aerospace, energy, healthcare, and automotive industries. SLM generated $74 million in revenues in 2015 with 260 employees. In addition to its operations in Germany, SLM has sales and application sites worldwide.
Business media has noted that GE has long been a proponent of industrial 3D printing, utilizing the techniques to produce customized fuel nozzles for GE Aviation’s new LEAP jet engines. The LEAP engine is the new aircraft engine produced by CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of GE and Safran Aircraft Engines of France. More than 11,000 LEAP engines are on order with up to 20 fuel nozzles in every engine,
GE has invested approximately $1.5 billion in manufacturing and additive technologies since 2010. According to the announcement, this investment has enabled the company to develop additive applications across six GE businesses, create new services applications across the company, and earn 346 patents in powder metals alone. In addition, the additive manufacturing equipment will leverage Predix and be a part of GE’s Brilliant Factory initiative. Investing an incremental $1 billion in this area is another important indication of the seriousness that GE attributes to additive manufacturing techniques, particularly given the backlog of thousands of orders for new more technologically advanced and fuel efficient jet engines.
We recently highlighted the challenges of rival aircraft engine producer Pratt & Whitney, currently experiencing a number of supply chain challenges related to its new geared turbo-fan commercial aircraft engine. Pratt has exercised a different manufacturing and supply chain strategy than rival GE, one that places more emphasis on component suppliers as opposed to in-house manufacturing automation and production capability.