Keywords: Information-Driven, Manufacturing, Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Internet of Things (IoT), Analytics, Industrial Software, Brilliant Machines.
ARC Advisory Group recently attended GE's second annual "Minds + Machines" event, held in Chicago this year. The event showcased how GE and its partners are creating and delivering solutions to help customers on their journey to becoming information-driven enterprises.
Continuing last year's theme, GE touted the "Industrial Internet," which is how the company refers to the convergence of connected machines, advanced analytics, and people at work. GE is also developing an ecosystem to support the vision, and releasing products that enable customers to participate. GE partners Cisco, Intel, and AT&T were represented at the event. In addition to the strategic "Industrial Internet" concept, GE also focused on how the company can support a more tactical goal for its customers: "no unplanned downtime."
Keynote Address: Jeffrey Immelt
Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE, was the keynote speaker. Many other GE executives were present, including William Ruh, Vice President of Global Software; Kate Johnson, Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for Enterprise Solutions; and Jonathan Ballon, Chief Strategy Officer, GE Software. Immelt discussed the dual nature of modern machines, physical and analytical, "which can no longer be separated." He emphasized that analytics outcomes have to align with customer priorities such as asset optimization. When their assets don't fail, GE customers enjoy higher productivity and can grow their businesses and create more jobs. To address these needs, Immelt said GE has set out to create a solution architecture to make connectivity and analytics more easily repeatable; attract world-class partners to grow an ecosystem to provide comprehensive service and solutions; deliver service offerings, applications, and solutions; and transform GE's service business to support these initiatives.
GE is using the Industrial Internet initiative to grow its Field Service business. GE is also changing the main mission of its field service organization from fixing problems, to helping customers optimize their assets. According to Immelt, "Industrial Internet is our strategic vision, but No Unplanned Downtime is what our customers want and what we want to deliver."
Customer Outcomes Panel
"All of a sudden we're data rich and information rich. What should we do differently?" This customer comment sums up the new reality facing industrial companies today. Panelists Mike Baharich, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Apache; Jim Compton, Vice Chairman and Chief Revenue Officer, United; Terry Donnelly, Executive Vice president and Chief Operating Officer, ComEd; Sonja Chirico Indrebø, Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice president of IT, Statoil; and Peg Von Bree, DrPH, Chief Executive Officer, St. Luke's Medical Center, held a lively discussion of many of the key issues. These executives explored the idea of making better decisions based on analytics. Several agreed with the comment made by Jim Compton, "There's a great thirst for using more data and information among our technicians." In other words, analytics is not just for "ivory tower" business analysts anymore.
There is a real business payoff to be had, in the form of asset optimization and better productivity. According to Peg Van Bree, "We used data to balance our load and improve our throughput, which let us bring in and handle more business."
The Role of Analytics
Florian Zettelmeyer of the Kellogg School of Management gave a short talk on analytics. His main idea was that analytics alone is not enough; companies must also change business processes. He also pointed out that executives need to gain a working knowledge of analytics in order to empower themselves. Knowledge of analytics is becoming like understanding a balance sheet - all executives need to understand the basics. You wouldn't want a CFO who doesn't understand accounting and has to delegate everything.
In his talk, Jeff Immelt also mentioned that it was necessary to train executives about using analytics, especially about what questions to ask and what sort of problems to attack.
Predix is GE's software platform for the Industrial Internet. Predix enables industrial-scale analytics for asset and operations optimization by providing a standard way to connect machines, data, and people. Deployed on machines, on-premise, or in the Cloud; Predix combines a stack of technologies for machine-to-machine communications, distributed computing and big data analytics, asset management, and mobility. In this manner, it can help deliver on industry's needs for scalability, extensibility, customizability, and security.
ARC saw a short demonstration of GE's Predix Reader at the event. This user-facing app leverages a popular trend in UI design: cards. The Predix Reader acts as a container for a dynamic library of "cards,"' each dedicated to some aspect of monitoring or maintaining a piece of hardware. A field engineer would use a tablet preloaded with a collection of cards related to a specific service call or asset.
Similar to Google Now, Predix Reader cards are like songs and collections are like playlists. Playlists with interconnected cards and rules (workflows) are also contemplated. Cards can bring multiple data streams into one unified interface. They can be preconfigured, customized, organized by the user, and shared.
The Industrial Internet allows companies to measure a wealth of things and gather massive amounts of data during the course of regular operation. The challenge for information-driven companies lies in deciding how to use these data. The core skills for this are not technical skills, but thinking skills. Even with the best data and analytical tools at hand, it is important to determine what questions to ask. What does the data tell you? How should the link between cause and effect be established?
Follow the advice of Professor Zettelmeyer: "Empower yourself. Get to the point where you are confident enough to start to question the data science. Learn from the data scientists."
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