GE, The Digital Thread, The Digital Twin, The Digital Company

UPDATED: Carpenter’s title changed after I wrote this. Also GE Intelligent Platforms is now called GE Digital.

GE now bills itself as the “digital industrial” company. It has realized the benefits of technologies such as the Watchdog Agent developed by the Center for Intelligent Maintenance Systems for monitoring and prognostics and the Industrial Internet of Things within its own manufacturing processes—especially aircraft engines.
Evidently it now all starts with the “digital thread.” To understand what was meant by this term, I was chatted with Rich Carpenter, Chief of Strategy Technology Strategist for GE Intelligent Platforms Digital.

I asked if this was essentially just a marketing term. “The digital thread is a way to describe a concept,” he told me. “People have become good at “leaning” out the manufacturing process. Now we are leaning out the entire new product introduction cycle. They are optimizing to the end of the path from design to engineering. Closing that loop and carrying forward to manufacturing.”

Companies have accumulated big data infrastructures, so they are also leaning out interactions between digital silos by managing the data flows. This enables remote diagnostics.

Carpenter also mentioned a process I’m beginning to hear around the industry. First you connect things—people, sensors, machines. Then you collect and analyze the data you get from the process. Finally given all this, you can begin to optimize the process.

Official word

Here is a definition from GE, “While the Industrial Internet may be unchartered territory to some manufacturers, early adopters are starting to understand the benefits of the ‘Digital Thread – a web of data created the second they initiated their Industrial Internet journey. The digital thread is the result of several advanced manufacturing initiatives from the past decade, creating a seamless flow of data between systems that were previously isolated.

“This data is essentially the manufacturing health record, which includes data from everything to operator logs to weather patterns, and can be added to as needed. For example, you could compile the digital threads across multiple plants to get a full understanding of the efficiency and health of particular processes and product lines. This record provides data context and correlations between downtimes and outside factors, allowing operators to be proactive in their maintenance strategies.”

Health

I especially appreciate the term “manufacturing health record.” That’s a term Jay Lee at the IMS Center used often in the first phase of prognostics and the Watchdog Agent—a consortium that GE played an active part in.

Digital twin

We’ve heard of cyber-physical systems, and then Industry 4.0 which is a digital manufacturing model based upon it. Now we have a new term, “digital twin” which Carpenter says is a new way to describe a real world physical asset. Then, trying to optimize it, we’ll create a digital representation—a model based on statistics or physics. We run the model, then apply successes of the simulation in the real asset. Then feedback the information.

News release predictive analytics

GE held a conference in September that I could not attend. So, I talked with Rich Carpenter and some marketing people and obtained these press releases. These technologies and applications reveal where GE is heading as a Digital Industrial Company—and where it can take its customers, as well.

GE’s predictive analytics solution, SmartSignal, will be available as part of GE Digital’s Asset Performance Management (APM) solutions on the Predix platform, the purpose-built cloud platform for industry. SmartSignal powered by Predix will deliver anomaly detection with early warning capabilities that is SaaS-based and therefore at a lower cost and at a higher speed, making it accessible to a broader range of distributed equipment.

“Until now, advanced equipment monitoring and predictive anomaly detection capabilities have only been available to enterprises with significant resources, both in terms of machinery expertise and capital,” said Jeremiah Stone, General Manager, Industrial Data Intelligence Solutions for GE Digital. “Because of this, insight gained through predictive analytics has been limited to high value assets due to these cost and knowledge barriers.”

Companies see condition-based maintenance as a means to cut existing operations & maintenance costs. With SmartSignal powered by Predix, they will be able to capitalize on cloud and Big Data platforms to drive more efficient and productive operations.

“There is an unmet need in the industry for a cloud platform that supports the unique requirements of industrial data and operations,” said Harel Kodesh, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President & GM of Predix. “GE Predix is the first cloud platform to meet these demanding requirements. By leveraging GE’s deep domain expertise in information technology and operational technology, Predix provides a modern cloud architecture that is optimized for operational services like asset connectivity, managing and analyzing machine data, and industrial-grade security and regulatory compliance.”

Today, SmartSignal technology provides early warning detection for more than 15,000 critical assets in customer operations. According to May Millies, Manager of Power Generation Services, Salt River Project, “SmartSignal has us listening to the right data and using that data to impact our work operations.” Salt River Project provides reliable, reasonably priced electricity and water to more than two million people in Central Arizona. Integrating data to improve visibility into operations was a key to maintaining their standing with customers. “Now that we have realized the incredible performance of the software and how strong and robust it is, we are improving asset utilization across the enterprise.”

Brilliant manufacturing

In a second announcement, GE announced the next version of its Brilliant Manufacturing Suite. Field-tested and optimized within GE’s own factories, the suite maximizes manufacturing production performance through advanced real-time analytics to enable all manufacturers to realize GE’s Brilliant Factory vision.

“Today’s demands on manufacturers are driving an unprecedented rate of change, innovation and agility,” said Jennifer Bennett, General Manager for GE Digital’s Manufacturing Software initiatives. “Manufacturers are challenged to decide what to build, how to build it, where and when to build it, and how to efficiently maintain it. We believe that the key to optimizing the full product life cycle from design to service is through analytics of data that has been traditionally locked inside corporate silos.”

GE’s Brilliant Manufacturing Suite allows customers to begin to realize their own vision of a Brilliant Factory. Integrating and aggregating data from design to service and leveraging analytics to support optimal decision-making allows manufacturers to drive improvements in end-to-end production. Analyzing data in context and providing the right information at the right time allows for better decision support throughout the manufacturing process. Data-driven analytics encompassing machines, material, people and process will transform the factories of today into Brilliant Factories.

GE’s next generation Brilliant Manufacturing Suite includes:

  • OEE Performance Analyzer – available for early access today, it transforms real-time machine data into actionable production efficiency metrics so that Plant Managers can reduce unplanned downtime, maximize yield and increase equipment utilization.
  • Production Execution Supervisor – digitizes orders, process steps, instructions and documentation with information pulled directly from ERP and PLM systems. Factories are able to ship higher quality products and deliver new product introductions faster by getting the right information in the right hands to focus on the highest priority manufacturing tasks.
  • Production Quality Analyzer – real-time identification of quality data boundaries that catch non-conforming events before they occur. Quality engineers can analyze this information to identify patterns and trends that enable factories to ship higher quality products faster.
  • Product Genealogy Manager – builds a record of all personnel, equipment, raw materials, sub-assemblies and tools used to produce finished goods. Service personnel can respond to customer and regulatory inquiries with confidence, knowing who, what, when, where and how for an individual shipment.
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