believe the location faced closure less than a decade ago. I
was able to learn the story of its revitalization, what it has
going on currently and where it's headed.
Setting The Stage
The roots of GE’s lighting division — headquartered
in East Cleveland, OH — can be traced back to Thomas
Edison’s work in the late 1800s. The Hendersonville
plant opened in 1955 and has been lighting America’s
infrastructure and cities ever since, making outdoor lighting
products that include fixtures for roadways and commercial
property and downtown decorative fixtures.
A walk around GE’s Hendersonville facilities today leads
one to think of the factory’s past. Most of the campus’
original buildings don’t look much different from the
outside than 60-plus years ago other than some faded paint
here and there. Old street lamp products populate green
spaces between facilities, including a spotlight near the
edge of the property that has seen better days. Still standing
next to the plant is its “Crossroads of Light” — a street
intersection lined with various lighting products made to
showcase to customers throughout the factory’s first
Those were roaring times for the Hendersonville factory.
But by the time the end of the 2008-2009 recession, a major
drop in sales and outdated production operations had the
plant facing closure. Employee layoffs and extended time
off put GE at a make-or-break situation in Hendersonville.
“It was definitely on the slate,” says David Martin, who
has been with GE since 1998 and the Hendersonville plant
manager since 2014. “It was after the financial meltdown and
orders had dropped severely.”
So, GE sent an outside consultant to the plant to observe
its operations over several months.
“He was tasked with the question of, ‘Is Hendersonville
the right place to continue making outdoor fixtures, and
if so, is there anything that needs to be changed?” says
David George, who has been with GE at the Hendersonville
plant for 18 years and currently serves as manufacturing
engineering manager. “His answer back was, ‘It is the right
place, and everything needs to change.’”
So, What Changed?
Once it was determined the plant was still viable, the
management team started down the journey of figuring out
how to make those changes and to see them through. George
became GE’s Hendersonville business transformation leader
in 2011 as part of a three-person team tasked with changing
the factory’s internally-focused operations to focus instead on
Historically, the plant did business on a six- to eight-week
lead time timeframe, with a roughly 60 percent on-time
From left: Lean manufacturing engineers Amy Olszewski and Elliot Fishman, manufacturing engineering
manager David Martin, plant manager David Martin and maintenance/facilities manager Dusty Walker have all
played a key part in GE's Hendersonville plant revitalization and/or continuous improvement.