The world is changing. Sensors are cheaper; cloud computing costs are lower; and unprecedented amounts of data are waiting to be mined for insights. Every minute, massive amounts of operational data are flowing online from devices all over the world. A single GE gas turbine in power generation, for example, has more than 270,000 sensors generating 500 gigabytes of data per blade per day. That wealth of data is waiting to be put to use optimizing asset utilization and business operations at large. And the opportunities are tremendous: just one percent efficiency improvement in the global gas-fired power plant fleet could yield a $66 billion savings in fuel consumption over 15 years. But getting to those opportunities requires a significant change in how we do things.

Tech + ops

Information technology and operations technology have traditionally operated in siloes. But operating smart, networked machines requires an intricate understanding of both the machines and the data and information that flows through them to bring new efficiencies and capabilities that do more—faster and cheaper. The combination of these two disciplines is igniting a fundamentally different approach to engineering and design that transforms workflows and makes factories brilliant. Assets from locomotives to jet engines used to be just machines, but now they are seamless combinations of hardware and software outfitted with sensors that are capturing data that can be used to make smarter decisions. These once disparate areas are coming together in both machines and organizations to open opportunities unimaginable a few years ago.

Outcomes start with data

We would not be able to get anywhere without embarking on an entirely new approach to this overwhelming mass of data, one that can manage it and make it useful no matter how big the data grows. Through the creation of the Industrial Data Lake, all data—structured and unstructured—will have a place to go and every inquiry made will traverse the information available to find the often hidden patterns, tags, and relationships that can lead to game-changing knowledge and insight.

GE Aviation recently embraced this technology and ingested full flight data reflecting the pace of growth for 24 customers over 3.4 million flights. With this approach, they were able to identify potential anomalies before they led to off-wing issues, reduce costs for hardware, software, and maintenance, enable new commercial offerings such as fuel efficiency services, and deliver insights to maximize operations and uptime never seen before.

As ubiquitous as electricity

We’re at the leading edge of sweeping change in tech culture where software and IT as a service are becoming the norm. Who would argue that a young company should build a generator to supply their electrical power needs when we all rely on the power grid? Cloud technology can bring every user even more reliability, while at the same time making thousands of proprietary server networks redundant. Reduced data center footprints, increased processing speed, improved agility, and stronger security—all at a lower cost—are in reach. Once the ability to ‘plug in’ and gain access to virtually unlimited amounts of computing power and storage space becomes as ubiquitous and standardized as electricity, the amount of things we can do with cloud resources will transform possibilities and create opportunities.

The future of industrial software, data, and analytics is here. Companies that are able to create the processes needed to extract value from real-time data and act quickly to optimize assets and operations will have the competitive advantage. Never before have outcomes been more important. Getting to no unplanned downtime, increased productivity, reduced emissions, preventive maintenance, and lower fuel costs are critical to industrial companies everywhere. The real opportunity is to change the world. 

About the author

Kathryn Kilner

GE Digital