Turkey is a critical part of our future, says GE CEO
General Electric (GE) has designated Turkey among the countries it will focus on as a growth priority. The global giant, which broke new ground with the first smart factory transformation in Gebze, is positioning itself as a key player in the digitalization journeys of Turkish companies. Alex Dimitrief, President and CEO of Global Growth Organization, GE’s international growth division, spoke to daily DUNYA while he was in Istanbul with a group of top managers. “I frankly do not know what Moody’s has done for Turkey’s rating but Turkey is one of the countries with an investment priority for GE,” Dimitrief said, referring to Moody’s downgrading of Turkey’s credit rating last week. He added that GE made its first exports from Bergama to Australia and that the smart production plants in Gebze would set a good example for the world.
Where do you put Turkey in your global growth strategy?
We have been in Turkey for more than 70 years in sectors like energy, healthcare, aviation, renewable energy and digital. We have demonstrated a strong presence in each of our industries and consider Turkey one of our homes in the world. As the developing middle class fuels the economy, promising great potential with its young population, and as the public strives to create a quality environment in areas such as health, transportation and energy, this market is very important to us. You are a critical part of our future.
Moody’s downgraded Turkey’s rating a few days ago. You are here. Do you have new investment plans?
Frankly I am not aware of what Moody’s has done. We are here, yes, and will continue to invest in Turkey. In many of our meetings, we put this forward. Turkey is part of our long-term strategy. Currently we are very interested in investments in healthcare. Public-private partnerships are very impressive in this area. Turkey has not only begun to improve accesibility but also quality in the healthcare system. In this respect, GE has important opportunities.
Has the wind turbine blade factory been completed?
Yes, and our production of wind turbine blades in Izmir is not only for Turkey; we aim to export to many countries from there. This is a model we can apply in different areas. This plant, which we built with an investment of $50 million in Bergama, has just made its first exports to Australia. We can see that the power transformer factory in Gebze will be the export champion in its field.
Industry 4.0 is a hot topic in Turkey. Where do you stand on digitalization?
We attach great importance to digitalization. The models that will improve the efficiency of Turkish companies are iOT systems and artificial intelligence. Turkey is a key focus of our efforts. GE is going through a digital transformation, as is the world, but we want to set ourselves up as an example. We are transforming our production center in Gebze into a smart factory. We are working on achieving a production system which is more efficient, has less human error and is less costly with the use of artifical intelligence. Our aim is to implement ‘intelligent’ production, using and analyzing data to improve our efficiency. Gebze is a very important test center on this road. If we are successful, GE will spread this model all over the world. Airlines, energy companies and hospitals want to enter the digitalization process to see how they can use what we sell them in such an efficient system. It is estimated that digitalization will add $10 trillion dollars to the world economy in the next 10 years. And we aim to be an important part of it.
When it comes to intelligent factories, employee reduct on also comes up. In this sense, GE suffered a serious contract on last year. How did the workforce fare in Gebze?
Lay offs are to be expected in this process, as was the case in Gebze. But global downsizing is also not neccessarily an inevitable outcome of digital conversion. History proves that technology always raises the quality of business life and creates new jobs. The new generation in Turkey is very solution-oriented. Of course, there may be people who cannot keep pace with this transformation. At this point, schools, in collaboration companies, need to identify the new skills for the future and shift their curricula in that direction. Training in data analysis will be very important in the future.