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GE hires 10 for Welland facility

by Dave Johnson, The Tribune

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As work continues on GE’s Welland Brilliant Factory, 10 of an expected 200 employees have been hired, says GE Canada’s Kim Warburton, vice-president of communications and public affairs.

And only one of the first three hired has previous experience in an industrial setting, says Warburton.

“A lot of people thought we were only hiring those who know their way around tools or had previous experience.”

She says the company looks at more than just technical skills as it uses a style of management called teaming, where employees are making decisions on the floor.

On GE’s website, the company talks about the teaming concept and says the goal is to move authority as close as “possible to the product, so front-line operators hold accountability for their team’s outcomes.”

“Part of the teaming strategy is to ensure that each worker is fully skilled, so that everybody can do every job. Someone might spend one week in the paint shop, the next week machining, and then two weeks in assembly. Not only does this improve outcomes and ensure flexibility, but people are more intellectually engaged and they enjoy their jobs more,” the website says.

The first group of employees, Warburton says, will be very involved in selecting other employees that will work at the 45,000-square-metre facility under construction in Harry Diffin Industrial Park on the west side of Highway 140 between Buchner Road and Silverthorn Street.

“In order to get the right people we have a a pretty lengthy interview process. It lasts eight hours and we have people do different tasks. They are assessed on different qualities, like how they work together as a team or accept feedback,” she says.

“Hiring people for the teaming process requires a lot of extra work,” says John Macauley, site leader at the Welland plant, on the company website. “The reason we decided to go through that effort in recruiting and training is because it pays off in the long run. Our teamwork is really about making sure that 200 people come to work every day with their hearts and minds focused on delivering for our customers.”

On the website, Blair Ford, one of those hired, says, “It was one of the most intense hiring processes I’ve ever been through. It brought out the best in me, trying to show what I can do.”

While employees are being hired, Warburton says work on the US $165-million facility is on schedule for occupancy at the end of May 2018.

“It’s really looking good … really moving along,” she says.

When it opens, the plant will start off with GE Power building reciprocating gas engines for various industries, but Warburton says it is considered a multimodal facility.

“Over time, we’re hoping to add other facilities there … transportation for example.”

As the company looks to the future of the Welland facility, Warburton says it will be meeting with at least 30 potential suppliers from across Niagara, and slightly beyond, Tuesday at a closed event at Niagara College’s Welland campus.

She says the Niagara Industrial Association and Export Development Canada (EDC) have worked together, along with support from the City of Welland, Region of Niagara and the college, to come up with a list of those who can meet GE’s supply chain needs.

“We want to make sure people have the product specifically being looked for,” Warburton says.

dajohnson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @DaveJTheTrib