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Understanding the Internet of Things and its potential for predictive maintenance

Orlando, FL - This year’s GE Intelligent Platforms user group meeting theme was ‘Making the Industrial Internet Real’, and the dominant proof point was how the Internet of Things (IoT) is improving asset performance. Held in...


Orlando, FL – This year’s GE Intelligent Platforms user group meeting theme was ‘Making the Industrial Internet Real’, and the dominant proof point was how the Internet of Things (IoT) is improving asset performance. Held in Orlando from October 27-30, the event focused on Intelligent Platforms’ Industrial automation software and systems users.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt’s opening keynote address on ‘How the Industrial Internet is Transforming Business Today’ had numerous examples of how advanced analytics and the IoT are helping businesses achieve Operational Excellence through better asset performance.

The follow-on session presented a case study by Delta on how it is driving to zero engine downtime on aircraft, leveraging the IoT and analytics. Attendees heard numerous case studies of how utilities, manufacturers and other GE divisions are using the IOT, the Cloud, and Intelligent Platforms’ solutions to improve business performance.

This post courtesy of GE discusses key takeaways from the event, and as well as provides some analysis from LNS Research.

GE’s internal customers create a unique environment

Approximately 20% of Intelligent Platforms customers are other parts of GE. This represents a mixed blessing to Intelligent Platforms and resulted in a somewhat interesting dynamic at the event. At many user group events the vendor presentations are often very marketing-centric and high-level and it is the end-user presentations that reveal the nitty-gritty and show some cutting-edge thinking.

At the GE event, since many of the speakers were management from other GE businesses and Intelligent Platforms users, they actually presented some of the more advanced-thinking approaches to using Intelligent Platforms solutions. Intelligent Platforms management mentioned a number of times that other GE business unit users often pushed them harder than external customers, and if Intelligent Platforms stumbled, then those other GE business unit users didn’t hesitate to escalate things.

This has enabled Intelligent Platforms to move its product functionality up a notch faster than some of the other providers in the space, since the benefits of product enhancement accrue directly to other GE businesses. This double incentive of having both external and internal customers has paid off for Intelligent Platforms with it being able to keep its functionality at the leading edge of the field. This was validated by the more than 50 non-GE users who spoke at the event about how they are using Intelligent Platforms solutions.

Analytics and software are driving the future

In Jeff Immelt’s opening keynote address, one of the most telling statements he made was, “If you went to bed as an industrial company, you’re waking up as a data and analytics company.”

The role of data science and analytics is becoming a key competency for business success. At a press and analyst luncheon, the comment was made that in GE, Six Sigma gurus were the heroes in the ‘90s and ‘00s. Today, data scientists are the rock stars in the organization.

At least half of the sessions dealt with applying analytics to improving asset performance, process optimization or quality improvement. From a product perspective, GE’s Proficy Historian, SmartSignal, and CSense were the stars of the event.

To ensure that GE and its external customers can leverage these tools, Intelligent Platforms has built up a cadre of over 150 data scientists, 50 of them based at its San Ramon, CA, Software Center of Excellence and the other 100 in various other business units within GE.

The IoT and the industrial internet

GE uses the expression ‘the industrial internet’ to describe the IoT as it is taking shape on the factory floor and in the field. Jeff Immelt pointed out the radical changes that occurred when a billion people became connected and what evolved from that, such as social media and marketing, digital entertainment and the mobilization of communication.

He then painted a picture of what connecting 50 billion devices will mean in terms of predictive maintenance, energy and fuel efficiency, workforce transformation and monitoring everything to the component level.

With multiple business units each in the $20 billion and up range, the power of a 1% improvement becomes substantial. Because of this, GE is investing in the industrial internet and the Intelligent Platforms business unit is the one charged with taking those learnings and leveraging them externally as well.

Why APM is core to GE and Intelligent Platforms

As we have noted in previous posts, the IoT offers the potential to introduce new types of business models into industry. Whether it is an incremental step like just providing insight into how equipment is operating in the field or something more like selling capacity instead of capital, APM (applications performance management) is at the heart of most of these opportunities.

GE has already embarked on this transformation with IT Monitoring & Diagnostic services in its power business, where it uses smart grid technology with Intelligent Platforms technology to offer that service.

Nearly one third of all the presentations at the IP Summit were APM-centric and highlighted the application of the Intelligent Platforms Proficy portfolio to providing customer value. This is not to say there was an absence of case studies on quality management, HMI implementation, enterprise manufacturing intelligence, or other areas that leverage the Proficy platform.

The strength of the APM stories were that they had hard quantifiable benefits which is what users want to hear. As Immelt pointed out in his keynote speech, in a company of GE’s size, even a 1% improvement, which is easy to obtain using APM, could yield multi-billion dollar returns.