Good engineers have many handy tools hanging from their belts. Jeff Bizub has a degree in music theory. “Music theory is the engineering behind the art,” Bizub says. He used the theory to build a software version of his ear. It listens for knocking sounds inside massive GE engine cylinders. The sounds herald errant gas explosions that can cause cracks and severe engine damage. Bizub transcribed his knocking recordings into notes and set them in a short musical piece titled Knock Music.
Knock, Knock: Jeff Bizub turned sounds of engine trouble into music. “When I was hearing the knocking frequencies, I was hearing notes,” he says.
Bizub is a senior product engineer at GE’s Waukesha engine plant. But he also holds a degree in music theory from the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. A few years ago, he tried to solve a problem afflicting large spark ignition engines. These engines work the same way as the engine inside ordinary passenger cars, but are much larger. The Waukesha 275GL* gas engine, for example, generates 4,800 horsepower and clocks in at 66,000 pounds. It can power a small power plant. The cylinders of such engines are so large, almost 11 inches in diameter, that the heat and pressure inside can ignite hot gas squeezed against the wall of the cylinder before the flame from the sparkplug at the center gets to it. That’s when trouble starts. There are now two flame “fronts” traveling in opposite directions, one from the wall and the other from the center. When these fronts crash into each other, they make the walls of the cylinder vibrate, emitting a characteristic knocking sound. This is called “knock.” Uncontrolled knocking can cause dangerous piston and engine damage, not to mention less power and more emissions.Engineers used to listen for just the one frequency of the knocking sound but Bizub, who has perfect hearing, had a different idea. “The engine is like a musical instrument,” he says. “The shape of a flute or a clarinet plays a dramatic role in the sound they produce.” What if he could use music theory to decipher and tame knocking? Bizub started running tests with an engine going into knock in GE’s Waukesha engineering lab. “I put my ear against the cylinder and could hear even with earmuffs on the multiple frequencies inside,” he says. “I knew that there was a center frequency related to bore size, but as with any instrument you’ll have multiple vibrations that will occur.”Some of the knocking frequencies were inaudible to an untrained ear. But what if he built a machine with perfect pitch that could hear knock and also ignore false positives. “The first line of defense is to determine very accurately when it is true knock and not some other noise,” he says. Bizub convinced his boss to buy a 16-channel digital recorder in a music store for $1,200. He also purchased a suite of music software to analyze the spectrum and the frequency of the knocking sounds, and a 64-band equalizer to amplify the inaudible frequencies related to knock. “The idea was to capture these sounds as wave files, analyze them with the music software, and plot out what’s going on,” he says.Bizub and a team of researchers used the results to write industrial software and algorithms that now sit inside a module attached to every Waukesha engine, listen for knocking, and adjust and retard ignition if they hear the tell-tale knock sound. The device is called Engine System Manager* (ESM). The ESM has much better signal to noise ratio that standard methods. It detects knocks more accurately and at lower, less dangerous amplitudes. It keeps the engine humming, adjusting ignition timing proportionally to the severity of the knocking.But Bizub did not stop there. “When I was hearing the knocking frequencies, I was hearing notes,” he says. “When you study composition music theory, you work on ear training and transcribe sounds in your head to musical pitches so you can understand them further.” He took engine knocking samples, one from a big bore rich burn engine and the other from a lean burn machine, added some echo for ambiance, and called the score Knock Music. “Like electronic music or early R&B rap music, I was stringing samples together and creating something new,” he says. “I can’t take credit for writing the music because really the engines wrote it.”* Trademark of the General Electric Company
Kenny Glasgow has never set foot in an executive suite but that didn’t stop him from flying to work. In the 1960s, Glasgow was fixing jet engines at GE’s Strother Field plant in Kansas, and saved up wages for a small Cessna 150 two-seater plane. “One fall the Arkansas River flooded and the road to Strother was closed for a several days,” Glasgow says. “I had about a quarter of a mile of alfalfa just east of the house. You could land down there when it wasn’t too tall. So I just flew to work.”
Glasgow gets things done. He spent almost four decades at GE, getting in on the ground level as a “heavy helper” in the maintenance department, and soaring to a leadership job on GE’s classified work for the B-2 stealth bomber. “The company raised my family,” he says. “It turned out to be heaven sent.”Glasgow, now 75, grew up on a farm six miles from Strother that his grandfather settled in 1871. “Wrench turning was not all that unfamiliar,” he says. “On the farm, you kept most of your things running yourself.”He joined the NAVY from high school, and after active duty as a radioman on the Warning Star surveillance planes he found work on an oil rig. When the rig shut down, “my brother and I were looking in the paper for something to do to get groceries,” Glasgow says.GE’s Strother engine repair and assembly plant was a decade old when the Glasgow brothers started, earning $1.78 ½ per hour. “That was a pretty good wage at the time,” Glasgow says. He started by working nightshifts, drilling holes in concrete hangar floors to install machinery. But he soon advanced and started servicing and testing GE’s J73 and J85 jet engines. He learned on the job, from technical manuals and from other workers. “The foremen knew because most of them had done the job before,” Glasgow says. “They came through the ranks.”He also learned from engineers at the plant. “It took me quite a while to be able to listen at the level they were talking, but once I caught on, they were like a walking book of knowledge,” Glasgow says.In the late 1960s, Glasgow bought the Cessna and took his family on flying expeditions. One of his daughters, Kathryn, was smitten. “I remember spending weekends polishing that thing,” she says. “It was our family time. My father swears that aviation is in our blood.”Kathryn got introduced to GE and Strother as a girl. “We’d bring dad dinner and get to spend a little more time with him,” she says. When it was her turn to graduate from high school, she went straight to the plant. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I always knew that I wanted to work here,” Kathryn says.Like her father, Kathryn started at the bottom and now leads a team that repairs engines for Apache and Black Hawk helicopters. “There weren’t many women here when I was hired,” she says. “My dad was a protector, he was not afraid to say something to somebody.”Glasgow taught her how to fix airplanes, shape tools, and find new solutions to problems. “He expected a lot, he wanted you to know a lot,” she says. When Kathryn decided to apply for an inspector job, she says, her father challenged her to read a measuring tool, the C – micrometer. “She could not do it, but by golly she learned quickly,” Glasgow laughs.Glasgow retired from Strother in 1998, when the B-2 work was over. With more than 800 employees, the plant is one of the largest employers on Cowley County, Kansas. “This is a small community,” Glasgow says. “It’s like a family operation.”
Kenny Glasgow with his daughter Kathryn. “My father swears that aviation is in our blood,” Kathryn says.
When Dr. H. Jack Geiger opened America’s first community health clinics in the cotton fields of segregated Mississippi and a poor Boston neighborhood, five decades ago, many of his patients had never seen a doctor. “There were enormous gaps in the health status of the African American, Native American and Hispanic populations, minority groups, and poor whites as well,” Geiger says. “There was a lot of need and community health centers were invented to deal with that need.”
More than a thousand of such centers across the country now serve 17 million minority and low-income patients. They stand as a testament to Geiger’s pioneering work, but need still remains. The United States is facing a looming deficit of primary care physicians. According to some estimates, the country will be short of 40,000 primary care doctors by 2020. This trend, combined a sharp rise in medical costs, “is not just a problem for vulnerable populations,” Geiger says. “It’s rapidly becoming a problem for the whole nation.”Geiger says that U.S. medical care is “badly skewed to the extent that we are oversupplied with specialists,” and that “developed nations that have strong primary care networks are delivering not only the best primary care but also the most efficient.”The GE Foundation has committed $50 million for more than 70 community health centers in 20 states to improve access to healhtcare. This week the foundation also made a $2.3 million grant to the National Medical Fellowship (NMF), where Geiger is a board member. The grant will help train future primary care physicians, nurses and doctor’s assistants at five community health centers in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Nashville, and Jackson, Mississippi. Students will learn clinical skills in neighborhoods with shortage of doctors and receive mentoring from local staff. The goal of the grant is to help launch a pipeline of primary care physicians to community centers around the country. Geiger says that twice as many students applied as there were places for the first round. “There are few if any programs like this,” Geiger says. “It is this kind of team workforce that will be increasingly the way that medical care is delivered in the future.”
Generations of farmers have looked at the humble Camelina plant and saw weed. Mike Epstein, who leads alternative fuels development at GE Aviation, sees jet fuel. “It’s an amazing story,” Epstein says. “You just have to chemically modify it a little bit. Once you’ve done that, you’ve got something that looks very close to kerosene.”
Thanks to Epstein and his team, GE jet engines now burn biofuel blends from plants likeJatropha, a toxic desert shrub, wood chips, and algae. A GE-powered Embraer jet will take off for a test flight during Rio+20, the U.N. sustainable development conference held in Brazil this month. “We chip at the problem a bit at a time,” Epstein says.
chemistry that converts biomass to jet fuel has been around for many decades. But the chemical industry used the process mainly to manufacture soap and other goods based on fatty acids from plants, because jet fuel made from petroleum was cheaper. The math changed when the price of a gallon of oil crossed $100 in 2008. “That took the art of the possible to the art of the practical,” Epstein says.
To be clear, GE makes jet engines, not jet fuel. But the company helps customers like airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and the military to switch to biofuels without any hiccups. “We look at these fuels to make sure that our fuel nozzles and our entire fuel system works as advertised,” Epstein says. “Our customers don’t need to modify anything. That’s the goal.”
Epstein has been building GE jet engines for more than two decades, including combustion systems and fuel research. He says that aviation has been stuck with kerosene because of its chemical properties. It packs the right amount of energy per gallon and weight, and any replacement has to match that. “We won’t be flying on batteries, fuel cells or nuclear reactors any time soon,” Epstein says.
Another hurdle is airport infrastructure. “Aircraft, engines, airport fuel hydrants, even interstate pipelines have been designed and built around jet fuel,” Epstein says. “Switching to fuels that are chemically and physically different from [kerosene] would cost trillions.”
Esptein and his team analyzed and rejected obvious biofuel choices like ethanol. “Design engineers have looked at these choices and the results were not pretty,” he says. “Ethanol has much lower energy density than conventional jet fuel. You’d have to carry a lot of it around.”
But in 2008, the team scored a hit when a Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet powered by four GE CF6 engines burning biodiesel flew from London to Amsterdam. “The energy density was still not good, but it was a fantastic first step,” Epstein says. “There were a lot of critics who said that we’d never fly with biofuel and this flight demonstrated that we could. It evolved from here.”
Just two years later, on Earth Day 2010, a NAVY F/A-18 fighter jet dubbed “Green Hornet” flew at 1.7 times the speed of sound with tanks filled with a half-and-half mix of Camelina fuel and kerosene. The Green Hornet was powered by two F414 GE engines manufactured by workers in Lynn, Massachusetts.
Today, Boeing, Airbus, Embraer and many airlines have flown biofuel tests. Price remains a sticking point but the fuel could dramatically improve their greenhouse gas footprint. Innovative refinery companies are also jumping in to bring fuel costs down. “We’ve started the transition,” Epstein says. “We’ve taken the first steps.”
Top image: GE tests biofuels at engine testing facility in Peebles, Ohio.
Teams of lighting designers and electricians spent the last six months crawling across the granite ledges and steel suspension chains of London’s landmark Tower Bridge, stringing some 6,500 feet of energy-efficient LED linear lights, 18,000 LEDs, and 1,000 junction boxes with 16,500 feet of cable. There is one thing left to do.
This evening, London Mayor Boris Johnson will turn on the lights to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The bridge will gleam in “diamond” white throughout the weekend for the royal celebration, but the light show’s just beginning. Next up: During the 45 days of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games held in the British capital this summer, the bridge will sport giant Olympic rings and Paralympic agitos symbols. The new lighting system, which is using GE architectural LED systems, will remain in place for the next 25 years. It replaces a quarter of a century old legacy system and will cut the landmark’s energy consumptions by 40 percent. The French firm Citelum, whose lighting designs illuminated the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, and the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, built the lighting set up.The GE LED technology lets Citelum blend many shades of colors of variable intensity. The lights can be “heat formed” to fit a variety of architectural needs and enhance the Victorian gothic turrets, stone towers, and walkways that make this the 117-year old bridge one of the world’s most recognizable sights.GE, a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics, partnered with EDF Energy on the project. GE’s support for the games runs from uninterruptable power generators for the main Olympic stadium to advanced medical diagnostic equipment. GE will also provide a large number charging stations for a fleet of Olympic electric vehicles.
Bright Lights, Big City: The new LED lighting for London’s Tower Bridge will be 40 percent more energy efficient than the legacy system it replaced.
Mike Harsh, chief technology officer for GE Healthcare, tells the story of a doctor who had trouble placing a stethoscope to the chest of a cardiac patient and listen his heart because of a tangle of cables coming from monitoring devices attached to his torso. “You sort of understand what the problem is,” Harsh says. “People wear so many wires. It just tethers them right to their beds.”
But Harsh is trying to cut those wires the way of the telephone receiver cord. GE’s vision is to develop a new generation of wireless sensors that attach to the body like a Band Aid. They would draw power from a tiny integrated battery and use radio waves to communicate with a receiver either in the patient’s pocket or in his hospital room. Outside the hospital, the information aggregated locally from the sensors could be relayed into a cellular network and automatically provide doctors and hospitals with round-the-clock patient monitoring and an uninterrupted flow of data.“It’s just like those hands-free Bluetooth head-sets, except we now transmit physiological signals rather than voice,” Harsh says. “That’s what makes this so interesting.”This week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which regulates the use of U.S. radio spectrum, will rule on freeing up two radio bands for the devices. “You’ve heard people talk about the Internet of Things,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. “You’ve heard about machine-to-machine connected devices. Well, here’s an example of these concepts coming to life. This is a big deal and we’re just at the beginning.”Scientists at GE Global Research and at GE Healthcare’s Life Care Solutions unit started developing wireless sensors for so-called Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs) several years ago. Harsh says the two proposed MBAN frequency bands are “sitting right next to” radio spectra used by Bluetooth and ZigBee technology. “The available silicon chipsets today can be pulled just a little bit” to cover the MBAN bands, Harsh says. “That opens up the consumer electronics space and the manufacturers of all the silicon would help us enter the space to really drive the costs down.”As costs fall and always-on wearable medical monitors spread from hospitals to patient’s homes, their impact could be colossal. “This will allow us to look at a large amount of data and start to do analytics, not just on ECG, but we can pull in respiration, or pulse oximetry,” says Harsh.GE’s analytical software then can start sifting the diverse data from many patients and look for patterns. “You look for the signature of something that might happen based on the data that is coming in,” Harsh says. “That’s really what we’re talking about. When you look at cost, access, and quality, it hits all three right in the sweet spot.”Disclaimer: This is a technology in development that represents ongoing research and development efforts. These technologies are not products and may never become products. They are not for sale, and have not been cleared or approved by the FDA for commercial availability.
Body Language: Wireless Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs) aim to eliminate tangles of cables transmitting data from monitoring devices placed on the patient’s body.
The Crave Brothers dairy farm in Waterloo, Wisconsin, makes tubs of celebrated mascarpone cheese. Across the state, City Brewery in La Crosse brews millions of cases of winning ales and lagers. But Wisconsin’s Gundersen Lutheran Hospital gets excited about the stuff that doesn’t pass the smell test.
Gundersen takes biogas produced from cheese whey and brewing waste, as well as landfill methane, and turns it into megawatts of electricity in GE’s Jenbacher engines. The pioneering hospital has been investing in renewable electricity and conservation and has set a goal to become 100 percent energy independent by 2014.
This helps the environment - the landfill and the brewery used to flare off the gas - and it’s also good for business. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates American hospitals spend $5 billion, or at least 15 percent of their profits, on energy costs. Hospital pavilions are also more than 2.5 times more energy and CO2 intensive than office buildings. “Our goal is to show that we can be environmentally sound and improve our finances at the same time,” Jeff Thompson, Gundersen’s CEO told Fast Company recently.The hospital’s Jenbachers, which are part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, started generating renewable power and heat at the dairy farm and the brewery in 2009. Last week, Gundersen’s 350,000 square-foot clinic in Onalaska became possibly the nation’s first energy-independent medical campus. The clinic gets all the power it needs from yet another Jenbacher burning methane produced by the La Crosse County landfill. For GE, the Onalaska story gets even better. The landfill Jenbacher powers two GE digital mammography screening units that the clinic installed last year. Electricity from biogas and wind now covers about 30 percent of Gundersen’s total power demand. The La Crosse landfill project alone will produce more than $7 million in revenue over the next decade, the hospital estimates. Those are real savings which Gundersen can pass to patients. “The landfill requires initial investment, but in six-and-a-haIf years it will be completely paid for, and we’ll have several hundred thousand dollars less each year in energy costs,” CEO Thompson told Fast Company. “If the cost of energy skyrockets, it won’t hurt our patients and our community.”
Pretty on the Inside: Intermediate flanch from GE’s Jenbacher engine. There are over 1,300 GE Jenbacher gas engines running on biogas installed around the world. They generate more than 6.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity per year.
Drill, Baby, Drill: GE machinist is using a high-precision CNC drilling machine to manufacture a crankshaft for the Jenbacher engine.
The week before Mother’s Day, Mark Leary called his mom, Patricia. Mark, who works on GE’s new GEnx engines, has been an engineer at GE Aviation for almost 30 years. Six decades ago, Patricia, who is 83 and the mother of six, helped develop GE’s first jet engines. She still keeps tabs on them. “I look at the pictures of the engines today and they don’t look like anything the engines then,” Patricia said. “I’m sure some of [your] engines are still flying across the country,” said her son.
Patricia joined GE as an engineering assistant in 1949. At the time, there were just 4,000 female engineers in the entire country, and no more than a handful at GE’s aviation unit, then based outside of Boston in Lynn, Massachusetts. “They were looking for people to hire for the Lynn plant,” Patricia said. She had a fresh degree in mathematics from Emmanuel College and started in a “calculating pool,” crunching engine test data with a slide rule and a couple of “really fancy” calculators. “I liked the idea that math was being used to produce something,” Patricia said. Her boss in Lynn was Gerhard Neumann, a jet propulsion legend and innovator. She borrowed books and took GE classes in aerodynamics and gas turbine theory. But she also kept math close and enrolled for an advanced degree at Boston University. “This was well before the string theory,” she laughed. “Complex variables and the Kutta-Joukowski theorem were about as high as we ever got.” The theorem just happens to be the corner stone of aerodynamics.The new skills came handy quickly. Neumann just started working on GE’s first supersonic jet engine, the J79. The key part of the engine that permitted speeds as high as Mach 2, twice the speed of sound, was a compressor that modulated the amount of air coming inside the engine. “It’s ridiculous that I should remember this, but I was assigned to write a report on the annular shroud, a second ring placed around the middle of the compressor blades to eliminate turbulence,” Patricia said. “We now call it mid-span shroud,” Mark jumped in.She also analyzed data from compressor tests. The tests did not always go smoothly. “At one point the research compressor was cantilevered from the back wall of a test cell,” she recalled. “We ran it beyond its strength, it came off the wall and chewed up the floor.”In 1949, GE started moving the aviation unit to Evendale, Ohio. The plant grew from 1,200 to 12,000 employees in just a couple of years. When Patricia first arrived in the summer of 1952, everything was still in flux. “They ran a bus directly from the downtown hotels to the plant,” she said. “So many people were transferring.”One of them was her husband, Art, a fellow young Bostonian who worked for GE in logistics. They married, and in 1955 Patricia left jet engines for motherhood. “We were a nuclear family, just my husband, myself and the baby, with no relatives nearby,” Patricia said.Art spent 37 years with GE, and Mark’s older brother also worked for the company. The J79 went to serve on a number on fighter planes like the F-4 Phantom. GE estimates that more than 1,300 J79 engines are still in service, and many are projected to continue through 2020. Just before they hung up, Patricia asked Mark how long he’s been at GE. “Since 1983,” Mark answered.“God bless you,” she said. “Time gets by.”
Slide Rule Sister: Patricia started out in a “calculating pool,” analyzing engine test data with a slide rule. “There were no computers then,” she said. “Just a couple of really fancy calculators.” Patricia’s bosses Gerhard Neumann and Neil Burgess led the J79 development. Patricia’s son Mark Leary stands in front of a J79 engine at GE’s learning center in Evendale.
Doctors know the power of data in making a good diagnosis. Each patient seems unique, but treat many and patterns will emerge. What works for humans is true for technology, too. Take wind turbines. Weather battered and wind blasted, they are easy to run but much harder to fix. But what if you could tell from the comfort of an office before things go awry? Engineers at GE Energy decided to find out. “We were looking for clues that a turbine is sick,” says John Mihok, advanced monitoring and diagnostics engineer at GE Energy.
The Doctor Will See You Now: New GE system uses data from 12,000 turbines to spot trouble before it happens.
Mihok’s quest started in 2009, after a blade shifted at a U.S. wind farm. “During the investigation we analyzed the data for what might have caused it,” Mihok says. “We realized that there was a very clear data signature for what the issue was.”The team then searched and sifted a pool of turbine data. They looked for patterns, first in Excel spreadsheets and then in an online database. “We found other turbines with the exact same data signature for the exact same problem,” Mihok says. “We took them off-line, did a quick repair, and got them back going again.”The engineers then widened their net. They built proprietary software and algorithms to spot odd vibrations, hot bearings, low power production and other anomalies. “We mine the data for features that let us know that there is a sick turbine out there,” Mihok says. GE knows the game. For many years it’s been remotely monitoring jet engines, helicopters, locomotives, and rotating oil and gas equipment.Sensors inside each turbine perform an automatic check-up every 10 minutes. They send the information to a central database, which holds gigabytes of data from 12,000 turbines around the world. Some 150 unique rules and algorithms then analyze it and the system automatically sends out an alert when an anomaly is detected. The alert includes specific information about the problem, what needs to be corrected, and how soon to react. It travels to a field technician who will fix it to avoid failure.GE has built more than half the wind turbines in the U.S. The company estimates that the system that the GE Energy team developed, called PulsePOINT, has saved over $30 million in avoided repairs, lost production, and maintenance costs.
Airlines are queuing up for GE’s GEnx jet engines for many reasons. They’re thrifty with fuel, quiet, and so efficient that jumping a dozen time zones threatens to become a routine. Just two days ago, Lufthansa flew the first passenger GEnx-powered Boeing 747-8 jumbo from Seattle to Frankfurt. Another GEnx set, slung under the wings of a Japan Airlines Dreamliner, now commutes between Boston and Tokyo.
>But the road to Frankfurt wasn’t easy. “There for a while we were biting our nails,” says Tom Brisken, general manager in charge of large aircraft customer strategies at GE Aviation.
GE engineers started working on GEnx in 2003. Boeing was building a new generation of advanced passenger planes, the Dreamliner and the 747-8 Intercontinental, and wanted engines to match them. “Boeing was pushing hard on weight, so we really pushed hard on engineering,” Brisken says.
GEnx is the offspring of GE90, the largest and most powerful passenger engine ever built and itself an advanced specimen of flying machinery. But GE engineers went to their computers and calculators and started hacking at the elder engine. They reduced the number of the man-sized composite fan blades from 22 to 18, and took more blades out of the engine’s compressor. Still too heavy, they slashed by a third the amount of airfoils in the low pressure turbine at the back end of the engine. “We just went too far,” Brisken says. “When we ran the engine, we were down significantly from where we wanted to be.” The engineers ended up putting 200 pounds worth of airfoils back inside to get performance on target.It was a victory but it didn’t win the battle. The engine’s high-tech lean combustion system was causing more trouble. “We were getting pressure spikes in the combustion chamber that were creating stalls in the compressor and breaking components,” Brisken says. “It was a real showstopper for the program.”With little time to spare, it was back to the design desk. “You’ve got a hurricane going on in that combustor,” Brisken, says. “Any disruption is like turning the hurricane on and off. You can just imagine the pounding on the components inside.” The team redesigned fuel manifolds, splitter valves, and other parts to smooth out the pressure flows. “It was like going from a four-speed transmission to a continuous transmission,” Brisken says. “It totally resolved the issues. We turned the pounding off.”GE makes two types of the GEnx engine, the larger GEnx-1B, which powers the Dreamliner, and its slightly smaller brother GEnx-2B, for the Intercontinental jumbo. The smaller engine entered freighter service last year and today they power 15 cargo planes. Brisken’s already gotten some feedback. Pilots told him the engines are so quiet that they have to look at their gauges to make sure they are running. They are also more efficient. “One pilot flying to Riyadh had to lower his landing gear and circle the airport to burn off fuel because too much fuel remained on board and put him over the maximum landing weight limit,” Brisken says. In fact, new data pushed Boeing to improve its fuel burn estimate by 1 percent, potentially saving airlines millions of dollars. Says Brisken: “That is like heaven for us, to get a result like that.”
Guten Tag, Your Majesty: Four GEnx-2B engines power Lufthansa’s new “Queen of the Skies” jumbo. The airline ordered twenty 747-8 Intercontinental passenger jets from Boeing. They will all use GE engines.
John Noble’s family has farmed the quilt of green fields and rolling hills around Covington in western New York for five generations. Every day, Noble’s herd of 2,000 dairy cows produce 20,000 gallons of milk, which he sells to local yogurt and cheese factories. But starting this year, he’s tapped another bovine asset, liquid cow manure.
Noble’s farm, Synergy Dairy, teamed up with the renewable energy company CH4 Biogas, which built on his property the largest on-farm biogas power plant in New York. That’s a big deal when you consider that the state is the country’s third largest milk producer. The plant’s innovative “digestion” technology blends cow manure with cheese whey, school lunch leftovers and other food waste to make methane, and turns it into electricity in GE’s clean-burning Jenbacher engine. “It’s a commercial grade stomach,” says Lauren Toretta, vice president of CH4 Biogas.
Trucks collect liquid food waste like whey from nearby dairy plants, and oils and fats from bakeries and food manufacturers as far as Rochester, some 60 miles away, while workers at the farm pump manure from Noble’s cow barns. They transfer the slush into a large receiving tank, macerate it to gain even consistency, and pasteurize it. “The pasteurization step is unique,” Toretta says, speaking like the Harvard MBA and former McKinsey & Co management consultant that she is. “It kills the pathogens that come in through the waste. We then put in the right bacteria to do its job and maximize gas output.”
Pumps push the mix into a looming 120,000-gallon digester, where it sits for three weeks as Toretta’s “good” microbes do their work and break grease, fats, and proteins into bubbles of methane in a process called “anaerobic digestion.” The gas then flows through a scrubber, which removes hydrogen and other impurities, warms up in a heater, and pools inside a compressor. “You want the gas to come out evenly,” Toretta explains the steps. “ You want an even output of electricity and temperature and pressure affect the gas throughput.”
Turning the pressurized methane into a steady flow of electric power is where GE’secomagination-qualified Jenbacher engine comes in. It is designed to run around the clock with as much as 95 percent uptime. Unlike wind or solar plants, the electricity generated by the methane-fired Jenbacher is so stable and reliable that it can be fed directly to the grid. “We run all the time, which is one of the reasons why other farms like us and the utilities like us,” Toretta says. “They rely on us.”
The biogas plant started generating electricity in December. It produces some 10,000 megawatt-hours of renewable electricity annually, enough to power almost 1,000 homes. The project received $1 million in funding from the New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and another $750,000 in a grant from the National Grid utility company.
For farmer Noble, his partners, and the community the benefits are manifold. Noble gets rid of smelly manure and cuts annual greenhouse gas emissions from his farm equivalent to emissions from 1,700 cars. He also saves many thousands of dollars by using the plant’s dried up residue as bedding for his cows. CH4 Biogas sells electricity to the grid for revenue and Covington gets a lift, too. In addition to the 30 workers em
GE Healthcare’s Lullaby baby warmers have grown popular with doctors in Europe’s modern maternity wards, but their birthplace is far more humble. The machines, which help newborns adjust to room temperature, have been developed to salve an urgent need half the world away, in India. “India produces one Australia every year, as many as 30 million newborns” says GE Healthcare’s Manoj Menon. But the majority of the births happen in an unsupervised manner, and even hospitals have to deal with erratic electricity and lack of affordable equipment, Menon says. As a result, India has one of the world’s highest mother and infant mortality rates.
But most of these deaths are preventable with proper care. GE attacked the problem by developing the Lullaby. The machine’s easy controls, pictogram buttons, and simple dials require minimal training and allow nurses and doctors focus on the baby, not switches. It can be also connected to a battery to bridge brownouts.
World citizen: GE’s Lullaby baby warmer was developed to improve infant care in India. Now it keep babies warm around the world.
The machine, which GE developed in Bangalore, and launched in 2009, costs $3,000 in India. But its appeal is universal. “This made-in-India product is now sold in [over eighty] countries, including rich countries in Western Europe,” says Vijay Govindarajan, a professor at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and founding director of the school’s Center for Global Leadership.Govindarajan just wrote a new book on the topic titled Reverse Innovation: Create Far from Home, Win Everywhere and the Lullaby warmer is a prime example of the “reverse innovation” concept. Govindarajan argues that to succeed, large companies must learn to innovate in developing markets, solve their pressing needs, and then bring the results back home. “A reverse innovation methodology requires companies to fundamentally rethink the price-performance paradigm, and that begins with understanding the customer problem,” says Govindarajan. “Once you do that, your solutions become very novel.” For GE, the Lullaby was just a starting point. The company has since developed Lullaby LED phototherapy unit, which incorporates LED green technology into the warmer, as well as the Vayu low-cost ventilator, also innovated in India, which can cover up to 80 beds in an intensive care unit with its four-hour battery life. Developing economies already represent more than two thirds of future global GDP growth and reverse innovation is a handy tool for catching some of that momentum. Govindarajan’s book presents additional case studies of successful reverse innovations by companies and organizations such as Procter & Gamble, EMC Corporation, Deere & Company, and Partners in Health.Govindarajan says that “GE is one of the leading companies in the area.” He says: “Every GE employee must have a reverse innovation mindset. It’s the biggest opportunity for GE going forward.”
Early last year, the U.S. military’s high-tech research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), tapped an online community of designers and car enthusiasts to whip up from scratch a fully deployable military vehicle. Four months later, Local Motors in Phoenix, which hosted the DARPA challenge, delivered the FLYPmode car, “the first military crowdsourced vehicle,” according to Popular Science. “It blows my mind,” Local Motors CEO Jay Rogers told the magazine. “It was just an idea in somebody’s head. We did it through crowdsourcing, and it’s a car that could be used, and its data is freely available for people to mod it and go forward.”
That’s the idea behind a new project between GE Global Research, DARPA, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Developing new military technology is a pricey exercise. But what if you could slash costs and build your idea by tapping the wisdom of the crowd? GE and MIT said today that they would design a “crowd-driven ecosystem for evolutionary design,” or CEED, for DARPA’s vehicleforge.mil project. What’s that? In DARPA talk that is “an open source development collaboration environment and website for the creation of large, complex, cyber-electro-mechanical systems by numerous unaffiliated designers,” say, like the FLYPmode.
In simple terms, the military research agency wants to tap the power of Internet, which it incidentally help develop in the 1960s, and build a new secure crowdsourcing platform where users could freely share, re-use, and remix their ideas and vet them with the crowd before they move on. It is essentially an evolutionary digital feedback loop spun from sophisticated software, where users pick and tweak the best ideas, and advance them to the next level. Only the strongest survive and get funding. “The development of new collaborative software architecture is changing the manufacturing paradigm to a more dynamic and distributive model,” says Joseph Salvo, manager of the Business Integration Technologies Lab at GE Global Research.
The news comes on the heels a $200 million government push into big data announced last week. “Data, in my view, is a transformative new currency for science, engineering, education, commerce and government,” Farnam Jahanian, head of the National Science Foundation’s computer and information science and engineering directorate, told the New York Times.The new crowdsourcing platform fits well with GE’s efforts to build the Industrial Internet. Such “Internet of Things” will allow people and systems gather and exchange gigabytes of data, design tools and speed up the development of highly complex industrial systems connecting jet engines, appliances, and medical devices. Last year, GE launched a broad foray into big data and opened a new global software headquarters in the Bay Area, in San Ramon, California. It will employ 400 new software engineers who will work to marry software, big data, and new product development. Could FLYPjet engine be next?
Incidentally, this is not the first time GE has helped design a military vehicle. In the 1960s it built a working walking truck. See the video here.
The FLYPmode is the first crowdsourced military vehicle. Photos courtesy of Local Motors.
Scott Latham spent 35 years working at GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville, Kentucky. “Thirty-four of those years were spent phasing out products,” the plant manager says.
But this year is different. In February GE started building GeoSpring hybrid water heaters at a new $38 million plant in Louisville, the first new GE factory in the city since 1957. Tomorrow, it will open another plant making high-tech refrigerators. “GE has invested in us and the city of Louisville,” operations manager Scott Douthett says. “The company is committed to building new innovative products in America.” His colleague, team leader Geoffrey Henderson, agrees. “Reviving American manufacturing isn’t going to be decided by the government,” he says. “It’s going to be decided by companies like GE.”The new plant is part of a $1 billion drive to bring new appliance lines to the U.S. and open 1,300 new jobs at GE plants in Louisville, Bloomington, Indiana, and Decatur, Alabama. Like the GeoSpring line, the new factory is using Lean manufacturing methods to cut waste and boost quality. “We pulled out all the stops to stay competitive,” says Lean leader Chet Innamorati. “We used people across the park, if they had tooling background, regardless of product line, we pulled them in,” adds design engineer Berny Klaus. Klaus’ colleague Mike Hillerich, whose father and grandfather also worked for GE, says that “the rebirth here is really exciting. I like the idea of working here another twenty-plus years and retiring.”Everyone in Louisville seems to be eager to see the plant open. “Our mindset has to be faster, faster, faster,” says Scott Shaver, the leader of the refrigerator project. “Sure it’s scary, there are lots of things to figure out. But it’s so exciting. When we start seeing those refrigerators come chugging down the line, it will be a rush.”GE Chairman and Chief Executive Jeff Immelt will be on hand when the plant opens on Tuesday. Be sure to follow our coverage. In the meantime watch our time-lapse video chronicling the construction of the new plant.
Debbie Patton, team leader: “I realized I had to make changes and become more competitive. Employees have to change and the company has to change in order to continue to grow and bring jobs back. It’s a wonderful opportunity for GE and its employees. Maybe someday my grandkids will be able to work here.” Scott Shaver, mission 1 leader: “In my 28-year career, it’s always been about survival.” But Shaver now sees a much more positive future. His son also wants to work at GE. “That seems possible now. Very possible.” Cindy Luckett, team leader: “I’m excited because I get to be part of the change. I’ll be the change.” Berny Klaus, lead design engineer and U.S. Army veteran: “While deployed, I could step back and see what my unit and I were doing for our country. Now I am here and doing something at GE on the same scale. That’s pretty amazing.” Geoffrey K. Henderson, team leader: “I’m learning 13 jobs in my section so when my team members come in, I can train them and if they have problems, I can jump in and help them.” Chet Innamorati, Lean leader: “In addition to jobs in the factory, this means American supplier jobs for parts and service. We’re going to assemble an awesome product in the U.S.”
Eddie Velo was a Minnesota turkey farmer with a big headache. His birds produced a lot of manure, tons of it. Workers used pitchforks to clear the stuff out of Velo’s barns, but few could keep at it for very long. He needed a machine that could do the job.
Two local entrepreneurial blacksmiths, brothers Cyril and Louis Keller, said they would help. They made him a light and agile loader that could get around poles and in and out of corners. It did the trick, and a lot more.
Velo’s loader, built in 1957, became the prototype for a whole new compact equipment industry and launched Bobcat Company, an iconic multi-billion American business whose machines now do chores for customers in many corners of the world.
Bobcat has more than 600 dealers in the U.S. and another 400 abroad. The company, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Doosan Infracore, employs more than 2,500 workers in the United States and Canada and reigns as North Dakota’s largest manufacturer.
A lot of Bobcat’s growth over the last three decades was financed by GE Capital. “Bobcat has experienced dramatic growth during its partnership with GE,” said Ed Hetherington, President of Doosan Infracore Financial Solutions. “Bobcat’s revenue has increased more than 400 percent, in part because GE has extended Bobcat dealers the necessary credit to maintain and grow their businesses and stay competitive.”
GE Capital’s Equipment Finance business, which is based in Irving, Texas, funded more than $6 billion in equipment for American companies and hospitals in 2011. That figure is expected to grow to nearly $7 billion this year. “We’re an important source of liquidity to businesses across the U.S. and we’re working more quickly and efficiently to help our customers grow and thrive,” said Diane Cooper, general manager of Equipment Finance.Bobcat is one of Cooper’s oldest customers and her division has been with the equipment maker through hard times. “The recession was tough on construction equipment customers,” said Rich Goldsbury, President of Bobcat and Doosan in North America. “We witnessed the worst times in the history of our business and industry,” he said. “But GE’s commitment to our dealers allowed many to remain profitable.”
Semitrailers carrying new Bobcat skid-steer loaders across America’s highways became a common sight as the company’s sales grew through the mid- to late-1960s.
The Gwinner, N.D. Melroe (Bobcat) factory in the mid-1960s. As the Bobcat loader took off, the Melroe Company grew to accommodate production.
One of the early M60 three-wheeled loaders, a predecessor to the Bobcat skid-steer loader, working in a common farm application of the time, circa 1959.
Like all M-Series compact excavators, the Bobcat E32 conventional tail swing model features a quieter cab that reduces sound levels by more than 5%.
The Bobcat E55 is a conventional tail swing compact excavator that delivers proven performance through smooth control of the work group, time-saving attachments and fuel-efficient turbocharged diesel engine.
The Bobcat S770 delivers big productivity and performance for digging, loading, pushing, grading and other tough assignments.
The T870 is Bobcat’s largest compact track loader ever manufactured, with a 12-foot lift height, making it the highest lifting compact track loader on the market.