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.
Here I go to yet another IT conference to talk convergence and platform. Salesforce invited me to its summer marketing conference in June and promised an interview with a Vice President. I could take my wife out to a good anniversary dinner, visit family, and go to a tech conference with a good interview all on one trip. Too good to pass up.
This was the Salesforce Connections conference. Not as big as Dreamforce in San Francisco, but still quite large by our standards in manufacturing.
Salesforce is more than the CRM company it was. Many acquisitions later, it has assembled an array of technology. Like all tech companies, it has a platform. In fact due to its open APIs, you could use it, too. Some time ago, I interviewed the CEO of a manufacturing ERP company called Kenandy that was build upon the Salesforce platform. Rootstriker, another ERP company build on the Salesforce platform, recently acquired Kenandy.
Featured in one keynote was an application by MTD, a manufacturer of lawn tractors (Cub Cadet, etc.). No, Salesforce doesn’t run machines. It does help connect the manufacturer with its end customers and then with its dealers with feedback to the manufacturer.
The idea is that customers do online research and so need to be reached in many ways (thus Salesforce marketing). MTD erected an online store on the Salesforce platform (in simplified terms) for direct to the consumer interaction. An order is fulfilled by the local dealer. The dealer still gets margin and relationship and as an extra added bonus, the opportunity for service business. Linking all back to MTD, it gets to know the customer, satisfies the dealer, plus receiving data from the service business feeds back into product development.
Achyut Jajoo, Salesforce VP automotive/manufacturing, told me industry is moving from product centric to system, e.g., autonomous vehicles, mobility services, digital signals; factory automation, geographic expansion, intelligence, vehicle sales. Mobility services lead to transaction service—over air updates, location based services.
He noted that people start online and mostly know what they want before visiting a dealer. Other manufacturing customers tying their whole sales systems back to manufacturing include John Deere and Ecolab.
“State of the Connected Customer” report
Before I went to the conference, Saleforce sent me this interesting report—a survey of over 6,700 consumers and business buyers worldwide that looks at the ever changing landscape of customers’ expectations, the emerging technologies influencing these expectations and the role trust plays in the customer experience.
Customers today are energized by tech innovations — but also plagued by deepening distrust of the companies that provide them. They have high expectations about what makes a great customer experience, and not a lot of patience for companies that fail to deliver.
These trends impact every company, regardless of whether they sell to consumers or business buyers purchasing on behalf of their companies. In this research, “customers” is an aggregate of both consumer and business buyer responses.
The report dives into the nuances of this tricky customer landscape. Here are five of the high-level findings our research brought to light:
1. Customer experience matters even more than you think
Eighty percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services. A majority take this sentiment a step further by voting with their wallets; 57% have stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience.
2. B2B expectations mirror B2C standards
The concept of “B2Me” isn’t new, but it’s gathering steam. Eighty-two percent of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves. But only 27% say companies generally excel at meeting their standards for an overall B2B experience, signaling ample room to improve.
3. Companies face new connected mandates
For 84% of customers, being treated like a person — and not a number — is very important to win their business. Another 70% say connected processes are very important to win their business (such as seamless handoffs between departments and channels, or contextualized engagement based on earlier interactions).
Even before a purchase, personalization is hugely important; 59% of customers say tailored engagement based on past interactions is very important to win their business.
While they buy, 78% of business buyers seek salespeople that act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry.
4. Technology sets new benchmarks for innovation
Real innovation, not lip service, is a deciding factor for most customers. 56% of customers (including 66% of business buyers) actively seek to buy from the most innovative companies.
While some emerging technologies are only starting to take root, a majority of customers say these technologies have transformed (or are actively transforming) their expectations: the Internet of Things (60%), voice-activated personal assistants (59%), and AI (51%).
5. Facing a crisis of trust: finding the balance between personalization and privacy
Sixty-two percent of customers say they’re more afraid of their data being compromised now than they were two years ago — and nearly half of customers (45%) feel confused about how companies use their data.
82% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for connections between their digital and in-person experiences.
81% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for more consultative help from salespeople.
85% of customers will share relevant information about themselves in exchange for proactive customer service.
For 92% of customers, the ability to control what personal information is collected makes them more likely to trust a company with that information.
There are electric motors and then there are electric motors. On my recent trip about an hour south to the Siemens electric motor manufacturing plant in Norwood, OH (a suburb of Cincinnati) I was often thinking about the line from Crocodile Dundee when the main character pulled out that child of a sword and Bowie knife and said, “Knife? That ain’t no knife. This is a knife.” When we start talking Medium Voltage motors at greater than 10,000 HP, that’s a motor.
Note: the one in red is a motor under test. Note the size versus the size of the person.
I’ve visited the plant a time or two before but wrote the news for magazines. Only a mention on my blog. When I was there in 2012, they talked about the transformation of the plant from a traditional old-school heavy manufacturing plant to a modern, lean, clean place to work putting out quality products.
The occasion for this visit was to view results of some significant investments by Siemens in maintaining Norwood as a state-of-the-art motor manufacturing plant. There are several new machines for precision machining of large parts. The pièce de résistance however was a new test bed and “Test Center Observatory” where customers can witness the testing of their motors in comfort with a dedicated Ethernet connection so that they can continue working during downtimes in the test process. A complete test regimen can last for several hours or even longer. Some customers come from other countries. Speaking as someone with experience traveling to witness tests on my products for certification, I’d have really appreciated this facility back in the day.
Before I get to the test bed, a brief discussion of digitalization and vibration.
Siemens has developed a digitalization methodology for motors called Drive Train Analytics. They are sensoring more and more in order to monitor and analyze a more complete virtual picture of the motor. Not surprisingly, they use Siemens Mindsphere sending data to the cloud using a variety of analysis tools. Customers have access to these tools in the observatory. Actually, customers could receive a complete virtual runoff of their motor back home. But engineers being engineers, they love to see the hardware in person. So they get both.
Aside from heat, the main killer of motors is vibration. Siemens has taken steps both to reduce vibration in the motor and to reduce ambient vibrations in the test process so that more accurate readings of the motor itself.
Working with customers who provide feedback from their use cases, Siemens developed a new shaft requiring new machining techniques. Some of the advantages of the new shaft include:
- Eliminates variation due to fabrication and spider bar tolerances
- Reduces required balance weight applied during rotor balance
- Removes heat-treatment process
- Improves rotor thermal stability
- More predictable rotor lateral stiffness
- Reduces stress concentration of weldment
The News-Test Observatory
With its celebration of more than 120 years of innovation, market and product leadership, technology and quality, Siemens’ Norwood Motor Manufacturing plant recently opened a new Test Observatory.
Opened in 1898, the Norwood facility has undergone a century of change, as the process to manufacture motors and the technology behind them has improved. Norwood has stood the test of time through three industrial revolutions and is one of the longest continuously operating Siemens’ plants globally. With Industry 4.0 upon us, the mechanical motor of old is now a connected device, a valuable plant floor asset capable of providing vast amounts of data with preventative and predictive analytics to ensure more productivity, efficiency and uptime.
With the largest motor test base in North America, Siemens can combine its century of industry leadership in motor manufacturing with an enhanced customer experience. The new equipment extends Norwood’s testing range from 10,000 horsepower (HP) to 20,000 HP at frequencies from 10 Hz to 300 Hz, thus addressing the market’s increased use of variable frequency drives. The new test observatory, akin to an executive suite, allows customers to participate by observing testing through bay windows, direct cameras and mirroring computers, which display real time critical data being gathered by sensors attached to their motor.
The project, which began in 2016, required the removal of 550 tons of soil and concrete from the site, excavating a 13-foot deep hole, driving 114 pilings for stability and building a huge concrete vault to securely support a fully loaded test stand. The test stand weighs 360 tons and rests on a self-leveling air spring system designed to support 500 tons when loaded with motors and drives.
The testing equipment includes two Sinamics Perfect Harmony GH180 drives and two dynamometers. Generating power to test a 20,000 HP motor requires significant amounts of electricity, and by recycling power to the grid, the new equipment reduces power loss by 90 percent.
“At Norwood, we test every motor that we produce or repair – some 30 to 50 tests per week – and these new facilities give us the ability to conduct as many as five motor tests at a time.” said Tim Bleidorn, Manager, Manufacturing Excellence. “We expect the customer witness tests to average two to three per week and as many as 120 per year.”
In addition to the new test base and observatory, the multi-million dollar investment in Norwood also includes WFL high-precision shaft making equipment and a high-speed balancer, key for two-pole applications at higher speeds and the ability to balance a rotor at up to 12,000 rpm.
“It’s exciting and I’m proud that Siemens is investing in the North American market. We have the No. 1 market share in AboveNEMA motors right now and these new capabilities send a strong signal to our customers and competitors that we intend to maintain that position,” says Ryan Maynus, AboveNEMA Product Manager.
With more than 100 patents, the 350,000 square-foot facility is a cornerstone to Siemens AboveNEMA motors. The ISO-9001 certified plant has produced more than 150,000 high voltage motors since 1898. The Norwood plant produces horizontal AC induction motors up to 20,000 horsepower and voltage ranges from 460 to 13,200 volts. The plant also manufactures a complete line of large AC vertical motors up to 8,000 horsepower.
Fourth in the series of posts as I digest all of the information I gathered at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Discover 2018 in Las Vegas. This post focuses on use cases. Yes, people, there are people some in manufacturing and some not who are using HPE IoT and Edge computing for fun and profit.
First off, a panel assembled by Tom Bradicich, VP and GM IoT and Edge and Ph.D. entitled Intelligence at the Edge.
Nathalie Elad of Comcast- We are an aggregator of data from homes sending this data from local server to cloud. He is working with HPE on virtualization. No, it doesn’t collect individual family usage to sell to others (yes, it came up). But the company does need data to know how to channel bandwidth. The challenge-“we double bits every 18 months and need to flex up and down during the day.” Interesting stat—there used to be 3.3 devices per house, now may be 20 or even 30.
Tim Thai, Tesla- OT—IT is still a challenge. “The Edge is dynamic, wherever business sets up shop.” Regarding IoT, there are “Things” in manufacturing-control and sensors. They incorporate sensors in testing of technology in cars. Not to mention “there are a ton of sensors in a car.”
Philip Rostle, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 racing, discussed F1 race car as the edge. There are lots of channels coming off the car during a race. They measure performance versus predicted. You think you have connection problems, he described connection in race as “variable”. Every car has a GPS. They track all cars in the race trying to predict status of the other cars. They run scenarios, analytics, quickly at the edge during a race to help determine strategy. Took “moonshot” server power to the edge so that they get maximum performance within the rules of F1.
In a special breakfast session, we talked with the CTO of the Ryder Cup and European PGA Tour. Think you know golf? Ever wonder about some of the stats that the TV announcers can quote during an event? Well, the tour requires a lot of data. And to get that data, they need connectivity. Golf is also an entertainment event. There are 50,000 spectators at the Ryder Cup. They all expect WiFi to access real-time information about the tournament.
First the data. Every shot has a dozen parameters to capture for every golfer. These are logged on the course. To connect, they use Aruba wireless networking devices. There are 30 switches and 700 access points. They collect 20K data points for scoring; 140K data points for other shot information. “Data drives insights that leads to performance for golfers.” They can track each golfer and also track spectator traffic patterns. An untold story, they lay 18km of fiber cable each tournament; ready to go for Wednesday morning and tear down beginning Sunday evening.
Mike Orr, director of digital transformation at Murphy Oil, uses Edgeline on oil platforms. He noted that his biggest hurdle was working with IT mostly due to its legacy software systems. He made this technology economics point—when oil went from $140 to $20, company laid off many workers. The only way he could get his work done was with technology.
I’ve already discussed the Texmark Chemicals “Refinery of the Future” use case, but I learned a few additional points at this conference.
Intel supplied streaming video analytics—used for physical security/monitoring, open gate for railway access allowed humans and critters into the site, monitored for exception to alert operators.
Deloitte is developing an IoT practice. It assembled an ecosystem including NI, Allied, ThingWorx, OSIsoft, SparkCognition AI for pumps. It also developed the operator dashboards for the project.
All together there were 12 partners in the ecosystem that completed the project that included predictive maintenance for two critical pumps and the video surveillance system.
HPE coordinated the entire project.
The insurance company was impetus to do something to upgrade the technology. Texmark kicked off the project by renting a party bus and taking 15 employees to the HPE IoT lab in Houston. They saw a demo of a pump with FlowServe monitoring and analytics. Employees discussed and picked the initial project targets—two critical pumps in the process plus the “video as a sensor” for the railway access. Getting early employee involvement was the key factor for successful implementation.
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) generates much useful information promoting awareness and technical tips about, well, the Industrial Internet of Things. Last week I had the opportunity to speak to the authors of a new white paper, ”Introduction to Edge Computing in IIoT”, Todd Edmunds, Senior Solution Architect, IoT, Cisco, and Lalit Canaran, VP, SAP.
The paper provides practical guidance on edge computing, architectures and the building blocks necessary for edge computing implementations. The IIC is also planning to release an Edge Computing Technical Report that will contain in-depth technical information in the coming months.
This paper is not a C-level generic paper evangelizing the concept, but rather practical advice designed to open the discussion followed by technical details targeted to those to whom the C-level executives might tell, “I have been reading about the IIoT. This looks like something we should be jumping into.”
We discussed how the edge should be defined by the business objective rather than the technology used. Using computing at the edge improves performance of the system when bandwidth could be the constraining factor for using the cloud.
As the edge gets more powerful, they told me, the role of the cloud will shift to one of orchestration of remote sites plus storage.
“Many companies are wanting to realize the business benefits that edge computing is purported to provide but are unsure where to begin or how to realize those advantages. The IIC has been at the vanguard of the industrial internet since its inception, and edge computing has been an integral part of driving the transformational outcomes that go along with it,” said Edmunds. “With the publication of this white paper, we provide practical guidance on where the ‘edge’ is and the key drivers for implementing edge computing. We also provide detail on edge computing architectures and real-world use cases.”
“Almost every use case and every connected device on the industrial internet requires some sort of compute capability at its source at the edge,” said Dr. Mitch Tseng, Distinguished Consultant, Huawei Technologies, and co-author of the white paper. “Oil rigs in remote locations have sensors gathering data but they need to be mindful of the challenges of data transmission because of bandwidth issues or the cost of transmission. The white paper is a first step in the development of an industrial grade ‘cookbook’ for edge computing.”
“Organizations adopting an IIoT strategy need to understand what data is available, how to use it to drive industrial processes and how to orchestrate, manage and secure data/compute,” said Canaran. “This paper and subsequent technical report will enable enterprises to unlock the full potential of the edge-cloud continuum and drive the business outcomes enabled by next-generation IoT devices, machine learning and AI.”
The full IIC Introduction to Edge Computing in IIoT white paper and a list of IIC members who contributed can be found on the IIC website.