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Ecoat Express Revolutionizes GE Locomotives

Michael Burbey and Chris French admit they are probably not a supplier’s ideal customer when it comes to their finishing operation at GE Transportation’s manufacturing plant in Erie, Pennsylvania. “We are probably the worst customer to have because of our demands,” says Burbey, a senior manager of manufacturing engineering for the plant, which makes locomotives for passenger and freight trains.

“We’re very difficult to deal with,” adds French, a senior manufacturing manager.

GE Transportation spent more than $6 million to install an electrocoating line in the facility in 2017, which included adding a sophisticated pretreatment system that the managers say has helped truly revolutionize the way the company operates.

“We say our manufacturing operation is the three D’s: dangerous, difficult and dirty,” Burbey says. “And our finishing side had always been dangerous and dirty, so getting a new ecoat line helps me get the paint gun out of our people’s hands. We can reduce guys with 7-inch grinders from having to work dangerously on these welds, and I can also now get to places that we could never paint by hand. So, has it changed and improved us? Oh, yes.”

The company says it builds the world’s most comprehensive and competitive locomotive portfolio that reduces operating costs and fuel usage, minimizes downtime and complies with stringent emissions standards.

Adding the ecoat line was a four-year venture by Burbey and French that culminated last year in a new line that has made just about every operation at Building 7 in the Erie plant perform better.

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