The U.S. remains the global manufacturing hegemon, with some twenty percent of the total output. But to stay in the lead and create new high-tech jobs, manufacturing needs to get smarter and innovate. GE’s Intelligent Platforms unit (GEIP) is helping GE businesses as well as outside customers to crunch big data and harness information to keep their competitive edge.
GEIP, which was recently profiled by Forbes, produces software, controls and other high-tech automation systems. GEIP’s smart Proficy software zips through factory floor networks, gathers real time data from manufacturing equipment, and identifies bottlenecks misplaced resources. The software also measures energy consumption and manages clients’ environmental footprint. “We convert the data into actionable information,” says Linda Onnen, global marketing director at GEIP.
“If you think of the manufacturing process as a river, when it flows smoothly through the production floor then it is 100% efficient,” says Onnen. “But that is never the case.”
Invariably there are issues with equipment, speed, or quality. “We look at the rocks in the river that prevent us from the 100% throughput,” says Onnen.
Onnen says that many companies achieve only 50 to 60% of maximum output. “They have limited visibility despite the fact that they use modern, computer controlled equipment,” she says. She says that GEIP’s software gives clients “the navigation and course correction tools” to optimize performance, such as analytics that look at the critical inputs, provide insight for process improvement, and decide what the optimal machine settings are.
That approach grows smarter when scaled across a number of factories. Onnen says that GEIP’s 3,000 global employees, who include software engineers as well manufacturing experts, produce solutions that allow customers to analyze and compare data from multiple facilities and harmonize production across all.
One client, a U.S. brewery with plants spread through several of states, was able to replicate the brewing processes for a regional brand across its scattered facilities. “Their biggest cost was transportation,” says Onnen. “Now they can brew a lager from New England in a local market in California, closer to the customer.”
GEIP’s software is also currently being used in GE manufacturing facilities around the world to boost productivity, increase “equipment intelligence,” and reduce failures through predictive diagnostics.