EDITOR’S NOTE: For week five of our series on General Electric’s 125th anniversary, Business Editor John Cropley and photographer Marc Schultz tour GE’s massive Building 273 on the main campus.
SCHENECTADY — Still in round-the-clock production as it approaches its 70th birthday, the main manufacturing building at General Electric’s Schenectady-Rotterdam plant is receiving continual equipment and technology upgrades to keep it ahead of its competition.
The cavernous facility measures more than a million square feet and turns out generators weighing more than a million pounds, but some of the most important pieces of equipment are smallish whiteboards and glowing screens that keep track of progress as managers and employees work to improve the plant’s efficiency.
As General Electric turns 125 years old, the campus at the foot of Erie Boulevard is home base for a variety of office operations and personnel, but it remains best-known for generators and steam turbines — the machinery that produces electricity. Roughly a third of the world uses power generated by GE apparatus, and the Schenectady plant is backlogged with orders for more.
A steam turbine-generator unit is easy to summarize in concept: Boil a large amount of water and direct the resulting blast of steam to pass through turbine blades, causing the turbine blades and the shaft to which they are attached to rotate. The shaft spins a rod with a magnet inside the generator, causing electrons to flow in the coils that surround the magnet. The electron flow is also known as electricity; the largest generators produce enough of it to light…
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