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GE HealthCare recently announced the first CT production line to build the “Revolution Maxima’’ scanner in Buc, France. At JFR 2023, Mélisande Rouger met with Laurence Comte-Arassus, general manager for France, Benelux and French-speaking Africa, and Fabien Moelo, plant manager, to understand what this decision means for the European market and the planet. 

What is the story behind this new production line? 

Laurence Comte-Arassus (LCA): It’s a team effort, and almost a meeting of minds. I joined the company three years ago, and with Fabien, we decided that we really wanted to do something new, different and bigger together in France, where we already had a strong footprint.

Fabien came to me and said we could bring a CT production line back here, and that’s how it started. Our first scanner is due to come out in June 2024. 

Fabien Moelo (FM): In human terms, it was great, we worked a lot together on the project. We’re the biggest production site in Europe, and bringing this production line from China to France is a real vote of confidence from the group. It creates enormous enthusiasm in the teams. June 2024 is very challenging, but it’s a great pleasure.

Is this a sign of an industrial renewal in Europe? 

LCA: It is a scanner in Europe for Europe, a scanner in France, and it’s a response to President Macron’s call to re-industrialize the country. Everyone has to make a contribution and there couldn’t be a better example. Buc is a site where our doctors will be in direct contact with all our teams, and there’s no better way to generate new ideas.

It is also an opportunity to give back to our entire French-speaking ecosystem, and to say that, with GE HealthCare in France, we can work together and go beyond our limits.

This scanner will also enable us to reduce our CT transportation carbon emissions in Europe by 84%. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is like re-industrialization; it is a daily reality.

With Covid, we had accumulated delays in the delivery of our equipment. With this scanner now produced in France, we’re restoring our ability to deliver faster to our customers in Europe and French-speaking Africa. The announcement that we are able to deliver this scanner in France has been extremely well received everywhere.

Just at the JFR, I met a lot of doctors who told me they are very proud that this scanner is going to be produced in France, and they hope to buy one soon.
Which part(s) of the scanner will be built in France exactly?

FM: This system is composed of three main parts: an x-ray tube, a high-voltage generator and a detector. Until now, our supply chain has worked with teams in India who manufactured the x-ray tube and the generator, and then sent them to a factory in China. The Chinese team then manufactured the detector, assembled everything and configured the system, performing all the functional tests. Inside the gantry, everything rotates between two and three revolutions per second, so there are lots of image tests and x-ray tube configuration parameters to run and set up. After that, our Chinese colleagues sent everything to our different warehouses in Europe, where the parts were consolidated and sent out to our customers.

From now on, we will receive the x-ray tube and high-voltage generator directly from India, and the factory in China will pre-assemble the gantry and send it to Buc together with the detector. In Buc, we will finalize the assemblies and mount the x-ray tube and generator, and carry out all the tests on the system. We will configure it to customer specifications and consolidate it with all the accessories, and then deliver the system to the customer.

To give you an idea, you need two trailers for a CT system: one contains the scanner, the other contains all the options. For our customers in Europe, we are going to use road transport as much as possible to reduce our carbon footprint and expedite delivery.

Components used to be flown in from China. Think of the weight involved! Now they will come by train or truck, which has an extremely low carbon footprint. 

What is GE HealthCare’s objective in terms of carbon footprint reduction?

LCA: We want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% by 2030 compared to 2019. We have just published our sustainability report. It’s really a major concern for us.

In terms of machines and equipment, the general public often is not aware that we work a lot on eco-circularity. We recover rare and expensive materials that can be valid for a lifetime on older machines, to be able to mount them on new devices. We have also worked a lot on packaging, and use as little cardboard as possible and try to reuse our own cardboard.

FM: Even before carbon footprint came into the spotlight, we had already been working for the past eight years on how to reduce our footprint and on the refurbishment part, with the reuse of parts and copper-type components. At factory level, we have our own objectives for reducing our footprint.

Eco-circularity also applies to the way we manage our operations. We do simple things like painting the roof white to lower the temperature, and installing photovoltaic panels. In our production, we make sure we renew our equipment not just in terms of the products we make, but also in terms of our operations.