GE Digital initiates a huge turnaround in its attitude toward software and Industrial Internet development. GE invested large sums to build a Silicon Valley presence for its software. Hired many engineers. Took its industrial software base up a notch or two with its Predix platform. Tried to build its own cloud infrastructure. The mantra—not invented here.
[Late Breaking News: I was wrong. There will be another Minds + Machines. San Francisco, October 30-31. That’s an expensive trip. Anyone want to fund me? 😉 ]
During the last Minds+Machines conference in San Francisco new CEO John Flannery, barely two months into the job, said that GE Digital needed to work more closely with partners. Soon thereafter came the axe.
That is the context for this major announcement (this one came from Microsoft, so within it may be a bit of its bias) of a partnership. Following report is based upon a media blog from Microsoft.
GE and Microsoft announced an expanded partnership, bringing together operational technology and information technology “to eliminate hurdles industrial companies face in advancing digital transformation projects.” GE Digital plans to standardize its Predix solutions on Microsoft Azure and will deeply integrate the Predix portfolio with Azure’s native cloud capabilities, including Azure IoT and Azure Data and Analytics. The parties will also co-sell and go-to-market together, offering end customers premier Industrial IoT (IIoT) solutions across verticals. In addition, GE will leverage Microsoft Azure across its business for additional IT workloads and productivity tools, including internal Predix-based deployments, to drive innovation across the company.
GE also plans to leverage Azure across the company for a wide range of IT workloads and productivity tools, accelerating digital innovation and driving efficiencies. This partnership also enables the different GE businesses to tap into Microsoft’s advanced enterprise capabilities, which will support the petabytes of data managed by the Predix platform, such as GE’s monitoring and diagnostics centers, internal manufacturing and services programs.
According to Microsoft, leveraging Azure enables GE to expand its cloud footprint globally, helping the companies’ mutual customers rapidly deploy IIoT applications.
The global IoT market is expected to be worth $1.1 trillion in revenue by 2025 as market value shifts from connectivity to platforms, applications and services, according to new data from GSMA Intelligence. Note: I find this a very interesting comment.
As part of this expanded partnership, the companies will go-to-market together and also explore deeper integration of Predix IIoT solutions with Power BI, PowerApps and other third-party solutions, as well as integration with Microsoft Azure Stack to enable hybrid deployments across public and private clouds.
Have you been wondering about GE Digital and such products as Predix Asset Performance Management since the announcements of the new GE CEO reducing the group and throwing it into turmoil?
Well, just when I realized I had not heard anything for a while, this press release appeared. I don’t usually write about the announcements that come daily about sales “wins” or about success stories. But I felt this was significant in that it was news that GE Digital is still out there and that here is a user that is not a GE company. Also it reflects a trend of collaboration among companies. Plus another trend—one of the original hopes for the Industrial Internet of Things, that is, adding ability for OEMs to monitor their equipment at the customer’s site and provide service and support.
Here, GE Digital and SIG, a leading provider of packaging systems and solutions for the food and beverage industry, announced a strategic partnership to power digital innovation in food and beverage packaging.
SIG will deploy GE Digital’s PredixAsset Performance Management (APM) and Predix ServiceMax industrial applications across more than 400 customer factories worldwide to drive new levels of efficiency, create intelligent solutions and enable new possibilities for its customers.
The food and beverage industry is ripe for digital transformation, with consumers increasingly seeking innovative, convenient products that are not only safe and sustainable but also affordable and differentiated. At the same time, producers are facing competitive pressures, supply chain complexities and ever-shorter production cycles – creating an increased need for technologies that can enable producers to quickly identify, predict and act on changing consumer and market demands.
The unique combination of GE Digital’s APM and ServiceMax applications will enable SIG to build an end-to-end digital platform that will bring a new level of insight and data-driven intelligence to its customers worldwide – helping them and SIG transform how they predict, manage and service the entire lifecycle of SIG filling lines. By automatically collecting and analyzing asset data – tapping into billions of data points across its operations globally in real time – SIG and their customers can move beyond traditional asset monitoring and predictive service models to reimagine their supply chain, enhance quality control technologies and evolve their portfolio mix.
“Our ability to harness data is central to delivering on our promise of opening up new opportunities for our customers,” said Rolf Stangl, SIG, CEO. “By tapping into information in new and innovative ways, we will be able to deliver an unmatched level of performance, security, transparency and creativity across the entire food and beverage supply chain – through to the end consumer.”
SIG’s customers fill more than 10,000 unique products into SIG packaging across 65 countries worldwide. In 2017 alone, SIG produced 33.6 billion carton packs for its customers. Through this large-scale partnership, SIG and GE Digital will co-innovate packaging solutions and technologies to address the industry’s two biggest needs today: improving asset performance and optimizing service delivery.
The new digital service model will also enable SIG to deliver new solutions and business models based on advanced performance metrics, including as-a-service delivery, performance-based and subscription solutions.
The initial deployment is expected to go live in July 2018 with the global rollout anticipated to begin in January 2019.
Artificial Intelligence, always known as AI, along with its sometime companion robots leads the mainstream media hype cycle. It’s going to put everyone out of jobs, destroy civilization as we know it, and probable destroy the planet.
I lived through the Japanese robotic revolution-that-wasn’t in the 80s. Media loved stories about robots taking over and how Japan was going to rule the industrialized world because they had so many. Probing the details told an entirely different story. Japan and the US counted robots differently. What we called simple pick-and-place mechanisms they called robots.
What set Japanese industrial companies apart in those days was not technology. It was management. The Toyota Production Method (aka Lean Manufacturing) turned the manufacturing world on its head.
My take for years based on living in manufacturing and selling and installing automation has been, and still is, that much of this technology actually assisted humans—it performed the dangerous work, removing humans from danger, taking over repetitive tasks that lead to long-term stress related injuries, and performing work humans realistically couldn’t do.
Now for AI. This press release went out the other day, “With AI, humans and machines work smarter and better, together.” So, I was intrigued. How do they define AI and what does it do?
Sensai, an augmented productivity platform for manufacturing operations, recently announced the launch of its pilot program in the United States. Sensai increases throughput and decreases downtime with an AI technology that enables manufacturing operations teams to effectively monitor machinery, accurately diagnose problems before they happen and quickly implement solutions.
The company says it empowers both people and digital transformation using a cloud-based collaboration hub.
“The possibility for momentous change within manufacturing operations through digital transformation is here and now,” said Porfirio Lima, CEO of Sensai. “As an augmented productivity platform, Sensai integrates seamlessly into old or new machinery and instantly maximizes uptime and productivity by harnessing the power of real time data, analytics and predictive AI. Armed with this information, every person involved – from the shop floor to the top floor – has the power to make better and faster decisions to increase productivity. Sensai is a true digital partner for the operations and maintenance team as the manufacturing industry takes the next step in digital transformation.”
By installing a set of non-invasive wireless sensors that interconnect through a smart mesh network of gateways, Sensai collects data through its IIoT Hub, gateways and sensors, and sends it to the cloud or an on-premise location to be processed and secured. Data visualization and collaboration are fostered through user-friendly dashboards, mobile applications and cloud-based connectivity to machinery.
The AI part
Sensai’s differentiator is that it provides a full state of awareness, not only of the current status, but also of the future conditions of the people, assets and processes on the manufacturing floor. Sensai will learn a businesses’ process and systems with coaching from machine operators, process and maintenance engineers. It will then make recommendations based on repeating patterns that were not previously detected. Sensai does this by assessing the team’s experiences and historical data from the knowledge base and cross checking patterns of previous failures against a real-time feed. With this information, Sensai provides recommendations to avoid costly downtime and production shutdowns. Sensai is a true digital peer connecting variables in ways that are not humanly possible to process at the speed required on a today’s modern plant floor.
About the Pilot Program
Participation in Sensai’s pilot program is possible now for interested manufacturers. Already incorporated throughout Metalsa, a leading global manufacturer of automotive structural components, Sensai is set to digitally disrupt the manufacturing industry through AI, including those in automotive, heavy metal and stamping, construction materials, consumer goods and more.
Porfirio Lima, Sensai CEO, answered a number of follow up questions I had. (I hate when I receive press releases with lots of vague benefits and buzz words.)
1. You mention AI, What specifically is meant by AI and how is it used?
Sensai uses many different aspects of Artificial Intelligence. We are specifically focused on machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), deep learning, data science, and predictive analytics. When used together correctly, these tools serve a specific use case allowing us to generate knowledge from the resulting data. We use NLP to enable human and computer interaction helping us derive meaning from human input. We use ML and deep learning to learn from data and create predictive and statistical models. Finally, we use data science and predictive analytics to extract insights from the unstructured data deriving from multiple sources. All of these tools and techniques allow us to cultivate an environment of meaningful data that is coming from people, sensors, programmable logistics controllers (PLCs) and business systems.
2. “Learn processes through operators”—How do you get the input, how do you log it, how does it feed it back?
Our primary sources of data (inputs) are people, sensors, PLCs, and business systems. In the case of people on the shop floor or operators, we created a very intuitive and easy to use interface that they can use on their cellphones or in the Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs) that are installed in their machines, so they can give us feedback about the root causes of failures and machine stoppages. We acquire this data in real-time and utilize complex machine learning algorithms to generate knowledge that people can use in their day-to-day operations. Currently, we offer web and mobile interfaces so that users can quickly consume this knowledge to make decisions. We then store their decisions in our system and correlate it with the existing data allowing us to optimize their decision-making process through time. The more a set of decisions and conditions repeats, the easier for our system is to determine the expected outcome of a given set of data.
3. Pattern? What patterns? How is it derived? Where did the data come from? How is it displayed to managers/engineers?
We create “digital fingerprints” (patterns) with ALL the data we are collecting. These “patterns” allow us to see how indicators look before a failure occurs, enabling us to then predict when another failure will happen. Data comes from the machine operators, the machines or equipment, our sensors, and other systems that have been integrated to Sensai’s IIOT hub.
We trigger alerts to let managers and engineers know that a specific situation is happening. They are then able to review it in their cellphones as a push notification that takes them to a detailed description of the condition in their web browser where they can review more information in depth.
4. What specifically are you looking for from the pilots?
We are not a cumbersome solution, for us is all about staying true about agility and value creation. We look for pilots that can give us four main outcomes:
– Learn more about our customer needs and how to better serve them
– A clear business case that can deliver ROI in less than 6 months after implementation and can begin demonstrating value in less than 3 months.
– A pilot that is easy to scale up and replicate across the organization so we can take the findings from the pilot and capitalize them in a short period of time.
– A pilot that can help Sensai and its customers create a state of suspended disbelief that technology can truly deliver the value that is intended and that can be quickly deployed across the entire organization.
So last week I shared an update on Schneider Electric from the ARC Forum–mostly on cybersecurity. A helpful marketing person guided me to the press release with all the data that updated the software side of the week’s news–specifically asset performance management. For the most part the discussion did not center on product updates but on “increasing momentum surrounding customer adoption”. In other words, Schneider wanted to highlight an area of software not often brought to center stage and show that it is a growth area.
Kim Custeau (I misspelled her name in my last post, I believe–thank you autocorrect), Asset Performance Management Business Lead, shared how investments in the cloud, advanced machine learning, and augmented reality, coupled with new partnerships, have empowered customers.
“Defining and executing an asset performance strategy is a critical component to improving productivity while safeguarding business continuity,” she said. “We have been delivering proven, industry leading asset performance solutions for nearly 30 years, and continue to invest in a long-term strategy to drive innovation in this area. Our focus is to provide real value to our customers by empowering them to maximize return on capital investment and improve profitability. We are proud to see our customer results speak for themselves with significant savings.”
Machine learning and prescriptive analytics:
- Duke Energy prevented an estimated $35 million cost from early warning detection of a steam turbine problem
- Ascend Performance Materials now responds faster to alerts saving an estimated $2 million through avoided plant shutdowns
- BASF is implementing AR to improve asset performance, reliability, and utilization while increasing production efficiency and safety because technicians leverage an augmented digital representation of the asset.
Cloud and Hybrid Deployment:
- WaterForce partnered with Schneider Electric to develop and IIoT remote monitoring and control system in the cloud that allows farmers to operate irrigation pivots with greater agility, efficiency, and sustainability.
- MaxGrip and Schneider Electric announced a partnership to expand APM consulting and add Risk-based Maintenance capabilities. The APM Assessment is a first step for industrial companies to evaluate asset reliability and digital transformation strategy.
- Schneider Electric and Accenture completed development of a Digital Services Factory to rapidly build and scale new predictive maintenance, asset monitoring, and energy optimization offerings. As a result, a large food and beverage company saved over $1 million in maintenance costs
Cybersecurity, digitalization, and asset performance management headlined the various press events with Schneider Electric at the recent ARC Forum. I took notes from Kim Cousteau’s presentation on APM at the main press conference and expected a follow up press release for details. I have not received one yet.
Remember the “reverse acquisition” of Aveva where Schneider Electric placed all of its software divisions into Aveva and then took a 60% share in the company? The deal is about to close. Schneider spokespeople assured me that digitalization is proceeding apace with the leveraging of Aveva design through construction applications into operations and maintenance applications—Schneider’s strong suit. This, on paper, brings the company into the competitive marketplace with Siemens and its UGS acquisition of several years ago. This is an interesting area to watch.
Schneider called a special press event, with lunch, to talk specifically about cybersecurity. This response to an incident in which the company’s Triconex safety system earned some publicity—but not always accurately portrayed. The incident was a cyber attack that caused a situation that the safety system caught and initiated a safe shut down.
However, the event caused renewed concern for cyber defense. ARC Vice President, Larry O’Brien, said, “This is a wake up call for people to follow existing security standards.” Gary Freburger, who heads that division of Schneider, said, “It’s everybody’s job.”
We received this official statement from Peter Martin, vice president of business innovation and marketing, Schneider Electric
At Schneider Electric, we heartily encourage all collaborative efforts to strengthen cybersecurity. The growing problem of cybersecurity is not specific to any single company, institution or country. Rather, it’s a threat to business and public safety that can only be addressed and resolved when suppliers, customers, integrators, developers, standards bodies and government agencies work together. This collaboration starts with common standards, agreed-upon rules, appropriate funding and active cooperation. It extends beyond national borders and transcends competitive interests.
Schneider Electric continues to work diligently with our customers, partners, developers and industry peers to make the shift from reactive to proactive cybersecurity management through compliance with evolving industry standards, agreement that cybersecurity is a journey not a destination, and a commitment to standing together in the face of cyber threats.
Today, we commend the signatories to the “Charter of Trust.” It’s another important step toward ensuring that the promise of digital transformation and automation will prevail over the threat of cyberterrorism.
Regarding APM, Kim Cousteau discussed a new release of Avantis that expanded machine learning from the power industry to oil & gas. For maintenance, it incorporates a team system for operator rounds and improved workflow. It incorporates augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) “because workers are so new and need help to get up to speed. Look for updated analytics to aid in catching anomalies ahead of failure. She cited a customer who has been tracking savings from this feature alone and is up to $65 million.
The product Rockwell Automation executives most wanted to talk to me about at the last Automation Fair event was its new analytics platform.
Immediately following the Rockwell event was Thanksgiving, then a trip to Madrid for a Hewlett Packard Enterprise event followed by catching up and Christmas. But I grabbed moments to contemplate the “Project Scio Edge Analytics Platform” (see image) and tried to place it in a context amongst all the platforms I saw this year. Which were many.
Executives including SVP and CTO Sujeet Chand and VP of Information Software John Genovesi were enthused over the new product. I wrote about it here.
I liked much of what I heard. There were many overtures to open connectivity that I have not heard at a Rockwell event—maybe ever. I even got an hour to discuss OPC UA and how Rockwell now intends to implement it. The demo during media days was also powerful.
I drew a mind map and exported an outline. Here is the list of positive things.
- Developed analytics from acquihire
- Good UX
- Open connectivity including OPC UA
- Should provide customers with insights into control systems and machine performance
However, I’m left with some questions—some of the same ones I often feel about Rockwell Automation. Check out the architecture diagram. It stops with machine level. I always expect to see more, but Rockwell always stops at the machine. Perhaps GE and Siemens have overreached with Predix and Mindsphere (and Schneider Electric with EcoStruxure?), so Rockwell stays closer to its roots on the plant floor? Is it more profitable and manageable that way?
I don’t know the answers. But I’m left thinking that with the rise of platforms [see for example Platform Revolution by Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary] and open ecosystems, Rockwell seems to have a much smaller vision. It talks of “Connected Enterprise”, but in the end I don’t see a lot of “enterprise” in the offerings.
- Is it platform or a piece of the Rockwell software stack that stops short of plantwide views?
- Is it anything that others (SIs and users?) can add to?
- Is there more coming?
- Is there a way to integrate supply chain and customer chain?
- Seems a natural to integrate with an asset management application–which Rockwell does not have.
I think they’ve done well for what they evidently set out to do. I also think there remains more to do to help customers leverage the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation. Interesting to see what next November brings.