Globalization at General Electric Discussion Case Study

Excerpt from Case Study :

This can fluctuate slightly with the economy and with new products that are created and must be launched, but the company is relatively stable in that it generally has a similar level of employees on hand in any given month or year and has had that level of employees since it has recently grown. It is likely that number will continue to rise.

Description of products/services

General Electric Company makes appliances, but they also offer aviation products, electronics for consumer use, electric motors, parts for electrical distribution, energy components and solutions, entertainment products, financial options, healthcare choices, gas solutions, lighting, locomotives and locomotive parts, oil solutions, software, water solutions, weapons, and wind turbines.

It is very easy to see that GE is committed to making many different kinds of products and getting involved in many different types of products and services. Despite its many offerings, it is committed to being ranked first or second in everything that it offers, so that its standards are always high and the company always gives the customer what he or she needs in order to be satisfied with the interaction with the company (Carlson, 1991). GE did not always offer so many things, but it has moved from one product into other products with speed and assurance, and left many of its competitors behind. In the beginning, GE focused on only a few select product areas (Mill, 1947; Woodbury, 1944; Thomas, n.d.). It soon became apparent that the way to go was to expand into more offerings, however, which was a business strategy that has served GE well.

Description of manufacturing operations

GE used to have the majority of its manufacturing in the United States, and it also sold primarily to that market. Over time, two things were realized: (1) there was a huge, untapped, international market which GE could take by storm, and (2) it would make more sense if goods were made closer to where they were being used, because it would greatly cut down on the costs to ship products to customers.

Because GE understood how valuable it was to be able to expand globally, and because the company also saw the value in lowered shipping costs, it decided that it would move some of its manufacturing operations to other countries where the products it offers can be made with the same quality but with lower labor and lower shipping costs - benefitting everyone involved. Because GE manufactures so many different items for many areas of life, it is not possible for the company to consolidate its manufacturing into one place, so the current set-up makes a lot of sense for the company (Carlson, 1991).

Overall, most of the manufacturing that is done by GE is done overseas, but there are still manufacturing plants within the U.S. that make goods for some of GE's market segments (Carlson, 1991). Whether it is a bad thing to outsource to other countries is, of course, debatable. However, GE is spending a great deal of money all throughout the world, including in the U.S. It is striving for balance in its manufacturing, instead of keeping everything in the U.S. Or outsourcing all of it to other countries where labor is more expensive.

With a company as large and international as GE, it is easy to see that a worldwide approach to manufacturing is what is needed in order to please customers, get parts and components, and provide proper delivery to companies and individuals who purchase their goods from GE or one of its subsidiaries. Most people do not realize how many things GE actually manufacturers, or how much space and manpower is really needed to keep up with consumer demand.

Description of marketing activities

Marketing is something in which GE has always been heavily involved (Carlson, 1991). There were many marketing attempts by GE in the past in the United States, and now the marketing is moving more toward Europe and Asia. That does not mean that GE does not want to continue to sell to Americans, but only that the General Electric brand is more established in the United States. Less marketing is necessary to keep the company fresh in the minds of consumers, because just about everyone in the United States has heard of GE, knows what the company has to offer, and sees it as a quality brand.

In countries where GE has not been as well-established and where people are not as familiar with the brand, it is necessary for GE to market more aggressively (Carlson, 1991). Their activities can include everything from TV ads to Internet and radio advertisements, as well as print media. Because there are so many different options for GE and the world is the company's oyster at the moment, there is a need to continue to spread out into more countries and provide more customers with quality goods and services. It is important for customers to have choices, and GE is helping to provide that.

Where the company advertises and promotes its products/services

Right now, the company advertises through all different kinds of media. Since GE offers such a wide range of products and services, the company understands that not all of its customers will be acquired in the same way. Where some businesses have to focus on a narrow target market for a niche product, GE is concentrating on a wide target market, or many smaller market segments that can be rolled into one. The picture of the GE consumer is far different than the consumers of some other companies, simply because GE has so many services and products from which a person can choose.

Some people who buy GE products may love to watch TV, and others are more interested in the radio, the Internet, or magazines. By understanding how consumers get their information about a particular kind of product or service, GE can focus on what the customers need and want, instead of wasting time, effort, and money offering goods and services to a wide array of people who may not be interested in those things. It is not necessarily easy to have so many small target markets, but GE is large enough that it can afford marketing gurus who will look through the product and service offerings, study the market, and come up with suggestions for marketing campaigns that will work for GE based on what the company is trying to sell and who would be most interested.

History of the company

General Electric Company was founded in 1892 by Thomas Edison, Edwin Houston, Elihu Thomson, and Charles Coffin (Carlson, 1991). It was actually the merger of two companies, as there was Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company (Carlson, 1991). When those two companies merged, General Electric Company was born. The two plants that were open at that time (one for each of the companies that merged) are still open, and they both carry the GE banner. That is perseverance and commitment. A Canadian counterpart was formed at nearly the same time as GE, which was incorporated in Schenectady, New York and was headquartered there for quite some time before the headquarters were eventually moved to their present location of Fairfield, Connecticut (Carlson, 1991).

What are the major events in its history and when did they occur

GE has had a rich history. There have been major events - both good and bad - in its past, which are represented here.

1896 - General Electric became part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

1935 - The first garbage disposal was marketed by GE.

1942 - GE develops the first American jet engine.

1962 - A GE scientist named Bob Hall invents the solid state laser.

1970 - The GE computer systems division was sold to Honeywell.

1996 - MSNBC is formed, in order to compete with Cable News Network (CNN).

2000 - GE does away with the Montgomery Ward brand, due to a decline in sales.

2001 - NBC acquires Telemundo, a leading Spanish language network.

2006 - GE Healthcare acquires IDX Systems, a medical software firm.

2011 - GE sells NBC Universal to Comcast, but still owns 48% of the Venture.

This timeline is largely just a sampling, because there are so many significant events that GE has been through over the years. They have made the company stronger, and there have been surprisingly few setbacks. All companies have setbacks at times, but GE has had fewer of them than most companies its size. This is partially because of a good business strategy from the beginning, but also partially because GE reacts quickly when it sees that there is a problem. Reacting quickly means that GE can also recover more quickly, which is vital to any company that wants to continue to succeed.


Carlson, W.B. (1991). Innovation as a social process: Elihu Thomson and the rise of General Electric, 1870 -- 1900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fairly, P. (2005). The greening of…

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