A 15-ton train traction motor near the end of its life enters a bay door on one side of General Electric Co.’s shop in North Las Vegas.
The part is split into its motor and gear. Over the span of a week, it travels from one side of the shop to the other.
Employees, wearing rubber ear plugs, inspect the motors. Depending on the condition, employees log the parts, clean them, repair them and ready them for new life as a so-called “remanufactured” combo.
At the other end of the shop, the newly joined, like-new Frankensteins are shipped to locomotive customers across the country. The shop produces about 20 so-called combos a day, 100 a week.
Workers carry iPads as they log each part and fill pass-fail forms on parts’ conditions, a result of GE’s investments in companywide internet connections and digital tools to streamline production.
At the North Las Vegas site specifically, GE has hired about 10 additional workers this year, bringing the total worker count to about 70 with an average pay of $20 an hour.
‘We can do better’
Still, GE global supply chain vice president Richard Simpson believes the company has room for improvement.
“We can do better,” Simpson said during a tour of the plant at 5406 E. El Campo Grande Ave., near the intersection of Range Road and Interstate 15.
The plant has grown in importance for GE because the operation saves locomotive clients from the cost of a new part, Simpson said.
Ten employees have joined the plant so far this year from another in Erie, Pennsylvania, he said. That plant and suppliers handled motor remanufacturing before the 84,000-square-foot North Las Vegas shop and its counterpart in Kansas City opened in 2008.
The move from Erie puts a motor repair operation closer to West Coast customers, saves time and costs and helps with the growing work load, Simpson said.
According to a study commissioned by GE and published in May, one GE job supports about three more full-time jobs independent of the industry sector.
Investing in infrastructure
City records show that this year GE has invested about $115,000 in infrastructure at the North Las Vegas shop. Most of that money paid for newly installed shelving as well as 4-ton, 3-ton and 2-ton cranes to help the refurbishment process.
The on-site iPads come from the six-year, $4 billion investment under CEO Jeff Immelt into digital technology for all the company’s industrial products.
Immelt announced earlier this year he will leave the company in August, replaced by health care segment leader John Flannery.
Adam Mohney, a spokesman with diesel train engine maker Brookville Equipment Corp., said locomotive operators have sought rebuilt motors, alternators and other parts over the decades for a variety of reasons.
Using rebuilt parts gives operators time before buying new equipment that follows diesel emission standards that went into effect in 2015. In that time, the hope is new technology driven by those regulations is perfected and gets cheaper, Mohney said. Plus, the rebuild gives operators a chance to upgrade fleet software for fuel efficiency.
“Depending on the desires of locomotive operators, there is plenty of room for remanufacturing of traction motors,” he said.
Contact Wade Tyler Millward at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.
GE transportation segment profits
2016: $1.06 billion
2015: $1.27 billion
2014: $1.13 billion
2013: $1.17 billion
2012: $1.03 billion
5406 E. El Campo Grande Ave., North Las Vegas