GE Appliances begins production at new Stamford ‘micro-factory’

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STAMFORD – Fresh mozzarella rolled through a building in the South End on Monday morning, as chef Tino Giresi led a team of rookie pizza makers.

Instead of working at T’s Wine Bar and Kitchen which he owns at 523 Pacific St., he asked the group to set up shop a block away. The latter location has not only hosted their impromptu kitchen, but has also transformed in recent months into a manufacturing facility that builds the oven they used to bake the pies.

This week marks the start of production at GE Appliances’ CoCREATE Center micro-factory at 49 John St., with Monogram Smart Flush Hearth Ovens being the first product to roll off the line. With the new approximately 67,000 square foot complex, the company aspires not only to operate a state-of-the-art manufacturing center, but also to drive education and workforce development initiatives and showcase its products. to the public.

“What’s most important and what’s the foundation of this (center) is manufacturing,” GE Appliances CEO and President Kevin Nolan said during Monday’s micro-factory meeting. , which was attended by several dozen people, including local and state employees and officials. “What you are going to see today is the beginning of the manufacturing of what we call our deck oven. It really is a revolutionary device…and I’m so proud that it’s made right here in Stamford.

Advanced Manufacturing

CoCREATE includes the first Connecticut facility for GE Appliances, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., with the micro-factory taking up about half the space. The company took over a building that once housed a warehouse for furniture company Lillian August.

Complementing GE Appliances’ facilities in several other states, the micro-factory is the company’s exclusive site for building Monogram Smart Flush Hearth ovens. Initially, the micro-factory will produce about 20 ovens each week, although the company expects production to increase significantly.

Manufacturing the all-electric fanless ovens requires the production team to cut and shape the sheet metal with machines such as press brakes.

“We have a whole process from which the material comes in big sheets and then we cut them up and they go here,” CoCREATE technician Colin Reynolds, one of the twelve members of the production team, said after using a press brake. shaping a piece into a left column for an oven. “It’s a big flow, all through the facility and out the door.”

The target demographic for Monogram Smart Fireplace Ovens is residential customers. But GE Appliances officials said the ovens could also be used in commercial settings – a suggestion that has been endorsed by Giresi. He said he was impressed with how the ovens cooked pizzas in just two to three minutes.

“That’s restaurant quality, if you ask me,” Giresi said.

Additionally, the company plans to manufacture a number of other upcoming products in the micro-factory. Reflecting CoCREATE’s public mission, the manufacturing center is fronted by an interior brick wall with large windows, so visitors can easily view production.

The opening of the micro-factory builds on GE Appliances’ announcement a few years ago that it would return to manufacturing and selling small appliances after 35 years. Its line now includes coffee makers, toasters, toaster ovens, blenders and food processors. GE Appliances products are used in more than 50% of homes in the United States, according to company data.

With its new facility, GE Appliances is also returning to its roots. In a period roughly from the 1920s to the 1980s, small GE appliances were manufactured in Bridgeport. In 2016, Haier acquired GE Appliances for $5.4 billion from GE. Also in 2016, GE announced the move of its headquarters from Fairfield to Boston.

“I am completely blown away by the amount of progress that has been made in such a short time,” said Peter Denious, CEO and President of AdvanceCT, a non-profit organization focused on economic development, before joining the pizza-making demonstration. with Giresi. “It’s so exciting to see this multi-dimensional installation come together.”

Next steps

In addition to manufacturing, CoCREATE is also poised to become a hands-on learning destination. Through partnerships with the University of Connecticut and Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, GE Appliances said it has begun hiring students for part-time paid positions that allow them to work alongside engineers.

Over the next few months, the company plans to open other CoCREATE sections, including a community maker space, product showcases, and a “heritage center” focused on the region’s manufacturing history. The company expects the site to be fully operational by early 2023.

“CoCREATE Stamford’s innovation model aligns with Mayor (Caroline) Simmons’ administration’s goal of creating a more innovative and vibrant city where everyone can thrive,” said Loren Nadres, Director of Stamford Economic Development and another of the Giresi Pizza Course participants. . “We are particularly pleased that CoCREATE is prioritizing education and combining workforce development and training opportunities for students in fields such as engineering and manufacturing. »

Nolan, a University of Connecticut alumnus, said GE Appliances’ interest in partnering with higher education in Connecticut reflects the impact of the company-backed FirstBuild Center, which opened several years ago on the campus of the University of Louisville.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for education,” Nolan said. “We believe we can provide opportunities and experiences that, right now, I think we need more of in Connecticut. We really think this is the start of something that can show others what can be done and what the future should look like.

[email protected]; twitter: @paulschott

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