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Resilience, flexibility and heart are three words that describe the team working on GE Appliances’ (GEA) $70 million Camden water heater manufacturing plant transformation. The journey of redesigning a plant during a pandemic hasn’t been easy with equipment delays and Covid closures at key suppliers, but the team persevered and used the extra months to build their knowledge and manufacturing expertise into a competitive advantage. And now the water heaters are rolling off the assembly line.
Operations Manager Halimah Cleveland has experienced the roller coaster ride since her very first day on the job in April of 2020. However, she will tell anyone that it has been the most fulfilling and exciting time of her 23-year manufacturing career.
“When I started, refrigeration equipment was still in the plant, and I had the opportunity to see it all leave and watch everything get built from the ground up, which was really excellent,” Cleveland said. “Plant Manager Frank Scheffel and the leadership team involved me from the very beginning in every aspect of the plant’s transformation, and it solidified for me, my decision to come to GE Appliances because they actually wanted my opinion and valued my experience.”
Initially, the plant will produce RealMAX gas water heaters under the GE brand.
“Gas water heaters are half the industry, and our new models round out our leading electric portfolio so we can serve more customers,” said Tom Zimmer, executive director for water heating for GEAppliances. “We took this plant down to bare concrete and have brought in the latest state-of-the-art equipment for each manufacturing area. Building a world-class manufacturing plant from scratch has been a ton of work and one of the most interesting things I’ve done in my career.”
For more than 100 years, GE Appliances has focused on finding a better way for life at home. But the desire to serve customers differently beyond the kitchen and laundry room, drove the creation of Air & Water Solutions, a new channel dedicated to serving the unique needs of professional contractors and wholesale distributors in the plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning industry.
“Our manufacturing plant in Camden, South Carolina is the first plant dedicated to our growing Air & Water channel and the professional contractors who never stop,” said Jim Skaggs, vice president of sales for GE Appliances Air & Water Solutions. “These professionals are the heroes of this business, out on the front lines, crawling through basements and attics and solving issues in the field. Air & Water Solutions has created a mission to serve these pros with GEA’s innovative portfolio of products plus a dedicated team of sales professionals, training centers, and support resources.”