Industrial Machine Performance: The Power of One Percent

Advanced Analytics Delivered through Smarter, Connected Machines Will Transform Industrial Performance

By Paul Studebaker

GE Intelligent Platforms set the stage for its Connected World North America conference, October 15 in Chicago, by making the point that a small improvement -- just one percent -- in efficiency and productivity can add billions of dollars to annual global GDP. GE is prepared to facilitate that by implementing digital platforms that can transform industries, providing new ways for businesses to connect and co-create value, by "getting connected to the power of the Industrial Internet – connected machines, data, insights, people," said Renee Armstrong, chief marketing officer and general manager, commercial operations, GE Intelligent Platforms. "We need an ecosystem to generate solutions."

Capital-intensive industries including aviation, healthcare, mining, oil and gas, power generation and transportation represent upwards of 30% of the global economy and have long-lived assets such as aircraft, generators, locomotives, and turbines that are mission-critical and require considerable monitoring and service throughout their 20- to 50-year lives. A big data platform that brings new value to the wealth of data coming from these assets, their processes, and the enterprises in which they exist, will set the stage for a new wave of productivity gains and information-based services.

Such a platform connects "the plant floor to the boardroom to the enterprise," said Jody Markopoulos, president and CEO, GE Intelligent Platforms, to improve reliability, productivity and efficiency and solve customer challenges like thousands of miles of connections in an iron mine or modernizing century-old infrastructures like Boston's transit system.

Also Read: Pervasive Connectivity: Brillant Is as Brillant Does

The conference built on and focused concepts introduced a week earlier at GE's Minds + Machines 2013, the Industrial Internet @ Work, October 9th on Chicago's Navy Pier. There, Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE, set the table for presenting how his company's continuing exploration of how the Industrial Internet, predictive analytics and new machine-human collaboration in the workplace can significantly boost productivity, create new jobs and skills, and minimize unplanned downtime in major industries.

"The physical world, of which GE's been a part for more than 100 years—through its material sciences, systems integration, and designing products that can operate in harsh environments—now meets up with the analytical world, with the power of new sensors and analytical technology, and lets us achieve higher performance levels," Immelt said. "It's this coming together of the physical and analytical that will provide enhanced performance for our customers in terms of no unplanned downtime and better asset and enterprise optimization."

Immelt is convinced that the separation of the physical and the analytical areas is in the past, and that's where GE is investing. "Those days are over, he said, and every industrial company is going to have to have a big footprint in the analytical world in order to provide real benefits and outcomes."

Immelt stressed the importance of customer intelligence gathering and smart partnerships with other companies to provide this solutions-based approach. "Market-backed, disciplined execution, partners, and a consistent and constant flow of offerings to transform our service relationships--that's really how we think about it today," he noted. "The smart machines and powerful analytics that have rippled through the consumer space are now very relevant and very real in the industrial space."

One of the key GE technology tools that will enable its customers to achieve these outcomes, said Immelt, is its Predix software, which provides the building blocks to write and deliver new applications rapidly and that will encompass the needed aspects of intelligence and analytics. "It's the technology basis for which we can offer more new solutions each year."

Outlining the increasing number of initiatives that GE has launched over the past two years, Immelt is convinced that "in the world today, productivity is everything. Outcomes are what people really measure, and we want to be known as a company that delivers outcomes for our customer. Those outcomes will show up as more revenue, less downtime, and improved enterprise operations."

Immelt also sees opportunities for the Industrial Internet in broad systems. "This spotlights what we call 'brilliant machines,' pointing to an example of wind turbines with advanced controls that have remote monitoring and advanced diagnostics that are integrated into a system that gets the electricity into the grid," Immelt reported. "Some of the more recent projects with wind turbines in the U.S. have been able to quote less than five cents per kilowatt hour." Immelt noted that when GE acquired its wind business 10 years ago, this was 30 cents per kilowatt hour.

"This is pure economics,' he said. "And it's because you can optimize the wind sweeps, and have turbines that talk to each other, and in real time change the shape and the curve of the blade." Immelt added that since wind doesn't blow all the time, you have to have the means to get the generated power on the grid in an orderly fashion, and monitor turbine operation to minimize costly, high-wire repairs, and that increases revenues.

"As we apply the Industrial Internet to big systems," Immelt said, "we see economic benefits that are game changers in how our customers operate."

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