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GE: find a local solution

GE Energy's Bahrain facility gets it closer to its customers

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GE Energy will be supplying equipment to the Al Dur IWPP in Bahrain.
GE Energy will be supplying equipment to the Al Dur IWPP in Bahrain.

Bahrain has been the centre of attention for GE Energy, as the business made has made its mark on the island kingdom with two quite significant achievements.

First there was the feel good news of local investment. GE Energy has opened a new office and technology centre in Bahrain, to support power generation industrial and petrochemical customers in that country and its neighbours, especially Saudi Arabia.

A few days after the company had formalised its demonstration of commitment to the region with the opening of the facility, which includes a customer application centre (CAC) and an assembly and systems testing facility, it was announced that GE had won a tasty contract, worth more than US $500 million to supply power generation equipment, as well as long-term services, to the Al Dur Independent Water and Power Project. While perhaps not directly related, these events must at the very least be distant cousins.

The nature and strength of the support shown in the CAC is pivotal and the company was quick to frequently point out the young Bahraini engineers, both men and women, who were running visitors through technical demonstrations on opening day.

In fact, Brian Palmer, vice-president of Optimisation and Control for GE Energy, named enhancing the supply of local talent as a top priority for the centre in the coming years.

“We want to continue to enhance our local talent development programme, so that we’re truly local, not only with the leadership and the administration, but with the field service and design engineers,” he said.

“The second goal would be to drive autonomy even harder. I think these guys feel now that there’s still a sense of head quarters and Bahrain. My vision would be that these guys don’t call me unless they need funding, or a high level contact with a customer. Otherwise, they run their business as best they can. A big part of that will involve developing and introducing new applications, done in the region, for the region.”

Palmer wants to see the Bahrain team take the technology the company has and apply it to developing solutions specific to the local market. This is a step on the road to Palmer’s ultimate goal for the centre: self-sufficiency.

Introducing customers to the company’s technology was part of two-fold business case for the facility. As the control and condition monitoring technology has got more complex and the combinations of hardware and software have increased, it has become more challenging for GE to demonstrate the value to the customer through typical presentation methods.

“One of the purposes of the facility and the case around it, is as a place where we can bring customers and demonstrate technology,” said Palmer. “If we can marry technology and applications together, we have a chance at a solution.”

GE also makes significant gains in the project cycle by being close to its customers. Have local assembly and testing expedites the delivery of a system to the customer by as much as 60%.

“The case for the investment was a fairly quick pay back, I can take cycle out of our business and be more responsive to our customers,” said Palmer.

“Our goal is to never lose sight of the end customer. With facilities like this and others we are distinguishing ourselves from competitors who just come in looking for someone to move his product. We have an advantage because we have the relationship with the end user, we build an installed base and we service it.”

The installed base has had a decent amount of time to grow. GE’s presence in the region is well established and the company has more than 1000 gas turbines installed across the public and private sectors, a number growing through contract wins such as Al Dur and the nearly complete work on projects for Marafiq, in Saudi Arabia.

“Power and water is the backbone and the region will continue to invest in the infrastructure, with a lot of opportunities driven by governments,” said Joe Anis, GE Energy’s regional executive and general manager for the Middle East.

Investments in Saudi Arabia support this too. Last year GE announced a manufacturing and repair facility to be developed in Dammam and a water-focused facility opened there in June.

With this level of activity, Bahrain may not be the only kingdom where GE Energy will be staking a
claim. 

Three of the best contracts

$200 million contractual service agreement with EMAL, signed in April 2009

US$1 billion to supply turbines to SEC, signed in February 2009

US$3 billion contract with Iraq to supply gas turbines, signed in December 2008

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