Aug 29, 2019

Ep 181: Emily Martin - Chief Commercial Officer, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy

Chief Commercial Officer
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy
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Show notes

Emily’s GE career (0:08)
0:08-9:29 (Emily discusses her start in GE and the important role her mentors played in growing her career.)

Q. This is where you grew up. Tell me about that.
A. Emily Martin grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina where she currently works as the Chief Commercial officer of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. While studying chemical engineering at university, Emily took part in GE’s co-op program. This enabled her to switch between working at GE for a semester and studying for a semester throughout her university degree. This not only gave Emily experience working in the factory startup process, but also enabled her to graduate debt-free. After graduating, Emily’s first job with GE was in their health care wing. She found herself missing the energy industry, and so was able to transfer back and eventually took a role in supply chain sourcing. Transitioning from the technical side to the sourcing side was difficult, but mentors helped Emily as she grew her career. A constant throughout her journey within GE is Emily’s motivation to continually learn. Emily finds she is most inspired when she is slightly uncomfortable, so she is always pushing for something a little more.

Emily’s continued journey in GE (9:30)
9:30-14:46 (Emily defines Lean manufacturing and her role in GE’s wind supply chain.)

Q. What is lean manufacturing?
A. Lean manufacturing is a description of the Toyota production system of manufacturing. A few years ago, Emily became the leader of a program to implement Lean manufacturing at GE. The purpose of Lean manufacturing is improving efficiency and saving cost.

One role Emily took on involved GE’s wind supply chain development. The goal was to work with existing companies to create a deal structure which would incentivise the expansion and building of new factories to support wind blade production for GE. Structuring these deals included attractive financial plans and providing companies with technical assistance.

Emily had transitioned to wind from the nuclear division of GE. She found that the wind sector had few rules or procedures in place regarding their supply chain, which was interesting for Emily as nuclear supply chains are well developed. Emily eventually left wind to return to GE’s nuclear wing.

Drawing from wind to lift up the nuclear culture (14:47)
14:47-24:13 (Emily explains how she drew from the differences between the wind and nuclear cultures to inspire change in GE’s nuclear division.)

Q. Where there specific things that you learned in wind that you wanted to bring back to nuclear?
A. Yes. Emily was first shocked by the cultural differences between wind and nuclear. She noted that nuclear was embedded in safety culture, meaning innovation and fast growth was hindered because conservative decisions spread throughout the industry. She returned to the nuclear division of GE after 10 years in wind when a prior mentor had recruited her to help develop a more robust nuclear supply chain. Emily found the first year back in nuclear to be frustrating due to the slow speed of movement brought on by the widespread safety culture. She wanted to draw from the progressive culture of the wind sector to lift up and inspire the nuclear division. Emily was later able to expand her role to include all manufacturing factories, enabling her to reach and influence a greater number of people to shift the heavy culture nuclear was facing. Progressive cultures in industry attract diverse staff, bringing strength to the business through an increased quality of ideas. This creates better solutions faster, something Emily felt the nuclear industry was missing. This outlook inspired the leadership teams within GE’s nuclear branch to take on the challenge of mixing teams and engaging in debates.

Changing GE’s nuclear culture with LEAD (24:14)
24:14-36:19 (Emily expands on the debates that occur in GE’s nuclear business and explains how these debates are causing a cultural change.)

Q. Tell me about some of the debates that have come from the diverse groups and about some of the things that are changing.
A. Debates center around product and strategic growth. Some things that GE has adopted that came out of the debates include decommissioning, pressurised water reactor services and engaging with the Department of Energy (DoE). Before the debates, GE did not take on these additional actions due to the risk involved. However, GE’s willingness to take on this risk is visible to the entire workforce, beginning a cultural change.

The risks discussed in decommissioning debates center around whether or not will create a financial incentive to shut down plants. On one hand, decommissioning could accelerate the path towards new nuclear build, including small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors. The existing fleet, however, must continue to remain in operation and not be shut down prematurely to ensure decarbonization goals are met.

In Emily’s current position as the Chief Commercial Officer, she focuses not only on sales and customer relationships, but also acts as a nuclear advocate. She engages in these constructive debates to push the nuclear industry to be more visible and to help GE to be leaders in the industry. To do this, she engages in the leadership debates, known as Listen, Engage, Align, Decide (LEAD) meetings. Beyond the previously mentioned debate topics, the leadership team also discusses who GE is as a company and a brand. The debates converge around a firm understanding that the leaders are true believers in a future for nuclear. This structured time for debates has resulted in a fundamental change to GE’s vision and willingness to be bold.

Approving new nuclear business strategies (36:20)
36:20-43:38 (Emily explains the relationship between GE’s nuclear business and the larger GE company. She also expands on the sales aspect of her position.)

Q. What is the relationship between GE Hitachi and the bigger GE company when you make strategic business decisions?
A. There is a certain amount of autonomy, but any decision that could affect the enterprise risk of the bigger GE must be approved. This includes decisions on decommissioning and working with the DoE. To get approval, Emily’s team develops recommendations based on enterprise risk management and presents this to the larger GE company. GE will conduct their own enterprise risk assessment before returning an answer to GE Hitachi. Leadership changes within GE have given each individual business branch more autonomy, empowering the nuclear arm to be more willing to take risks.

Beyond advocacy, debates and strategic business decisions, Emily also sells nuclear fuel, parts and services. There is an existing loose partnership between existing sale lines and new power plants, but due to the differences between the traditional market and the new plants, there is not much crossover. It is encouraging, however, that existing fleet customers are talking seriously about investing in new plant technology, which could accelerate innovation. Additionally, new designs, such as the BWRX300, can benefit from the existing, mature supply chains, reducing costs and increasing the speed of production.

Boldly advocating for nuclear power (43:38)
43:38-51:08 (Emily explains her nuclear advocacy strategy.)

Q. You mentioned advocacy and going out into the community. What are some of your efforts there and how do you become a voice for the nuclear industry?
A. Thus far, Emily has focused on speaking at events. This has included speaking at industry conferences, increasing the visibility of GE’s nuclear sector. Emily has also pushed to speak with people who are skeptical about nuclear power, hoping to eventually speak at a climate change conference. She notes that this strategy brings up tough questions, citing examples from when speaking at the Atomic Wings Panel at the DoE and the Nuclear Powers Pennsylvania Rally. Emily discusses the difficulty in remaining confident without resorting to defending nuclear safety when responding to tricky questions.

Emily’s advocacy strategy focuses around connecting the dots for people at the intersection of different technologies. Emily is an environmentalist, and she wants to show that one can be both a nuclear advocate and care about the environment. Emily also expresses the need for being bold, especially when advocating for real science that can benefit humanity.

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