Industrial Internet: From Optimized Assets to Optimized Enterprises
By Ganesh Bell
Chief Digital Officer for GE Power & Water
There was a time when the equipment we manufactured and sold was the entire “solution” for our customers. By installing our equipment, the customer solved their power generation requirements and benefitted from the huge efficiency gains achieved by using our equipment.
Then, we and our customers learned that GE could add further value to the customer operation in a new way by providing ongoing service solutions. Our experience building the equipment and the knowledge we gained from talking to our customers across the globe about how these turbines run gave us a unique perspective on optimal maintenance. These solutions remain extremely valuable to our customers.
And now today, we are entering a new age of value generation for our customers — one that builds on what has come before and is enabled by the extremely powerful tools of the Industrial Internet (Internet of Things).
Of course, the Industrial Internet and Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the hottest topics these days, but I’m talking about it in the context of power generation services and the broader energy sector, where analysts expect the Industrial Internet will generate more value than in virtually any other sector — as much as US$ 100 billion by 2020.
What’s underpinning this and ushering in a new revolution in our sector is a whole host of technologies that are finally available, including the cloud, big data, low-cost censors, smart machines and advanced analytics.
From software solutions to digital assets
We have seen how software has enhanced or transformed many industries — transportation, commerce and retail — are just three examples. But in an industrial business like ours, these opportunities in software are not just about driving efficiency and productivity at the level of the turbine or generator.
With these new technologies, we are able to provide what is essentially an entirely new solutions that helps our customer operate the entire plant at a higher level, thereby unlocking a range of bottom-line benefits for them.
Historically, we have had lots of data about our machines. We continue to use that operational data to design better machines, but we also can use that data to gain new insights about what additional solutions we can offer. A great example is Power FlexEfficiency for F-class turbines. We analyzed nearly 100 million hours of operating data to create a product that lets customers unleash the full performance and long-term value of their turbines in areas such as greater output, higher efficiency and reliability, and lower emissions and fuel use.
Another example is a GE wind turbine that combines hardware and software to optimize wind generation, reduce downtime and provide uninterrupted power. The software layer, called PowerUp, boosts wind turbine output by up to 5%.
Later this year, we will be launching two additional products for customers in power generation that can be seen as a sort of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for the entire power plant. It will allow an entire power plant or wind farm to operate better.
The Industrial Internet is now
I’m always asked, “When will you deliver this Industrial Internet (Internet of Things)?” But the reality is its already here, and we’ve been delivering Industrial Internet benefits to our customers for several years now. Examples include the already-mentioned Power FlexEfficiency and Predictivity, GE’s portfolio of solutions that drive customer profitability gains through no unplanned downtime, fuel efficiencies, workforce optimization, reductions in operating costs and new revenue opportunities.
We are only at the beginning of this journey of equipment performance optimization. Even so, we have already unlocked huge value for our customers, and this will continue to extend from the equipment level to the enterprise level in the running of power plants, wind farms, energy trains and even entire industrial operations.