GE and its technology took over the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC, this morning for a four day summit focused on American competitiveness. The building’s stately hall has been transformed into a showcase for GE innovation. High-tech interactive displays and products including a magnetic resonance machine, the WattStation EV charger, and a gas turbine model were holding their own next to soaring neoclassical columns as the new symbols of American innovation, strength, and resilience.
In his opening remarks GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt addressed over two hundred business and political leaders, journalists and other visitors, and focused on ideas that help American businesses boost their competitive edge. Immelt hit a confident note. “As a 30-year GE executive, I can tell you I’ve probably more confidence today than any other time I can remember in the ability of factories and businesses in this country to be competitive,” he said. “Companies are competitive, they want to win.”
Immelt shared 10 ideas that “we’ve seen work, and things we’ve learned about how to drive competitiveness inside our company” and country. He said that “technology, manufacturing, exports, those are things that are working in the United States. And then if you look at affordable health care, access to energy, these are the two pillars of every productive society when I travel around the world.”
Immelt also stressed the importance of collaboration between suppliers, manufacturers, and customers and the role big data (and advanced analytics) will play in making companies more competitive. “I think if you look at the revolution of the last 10 years… the whole aspect of man to machine, or machine to machine technology, over the coming decade is going to be one of the big trends,” he said. “We have about 250,000 units, jet engines, gas turbines, MR scanners, and we take all of [this information] through sensor technology, maybe 10 terabytes of data … And we have the ability now to model usage data, real-time. That has a chance to drive productivity and performance for our customers,” Immelt said.
Other items on Immelt’s list were: strong emphasis on science and engineering education; empowering workers so “the people closest to the action, the people on the floor… drive quality;” and the importance of public-private partnerships to help “level the playing field” for U.S. businesses. He said that “the government can create an important catalyst and the right environment in which people want to compete and want to create jobs.”
He concluded saying that American companies have to sell abroad and export because that’s where the growth is. “We’ve got to sell everywhere and we’ve got to be hungry and out there, everyday fighting for our companies.”