When we talk about Digital Twins are these individual assets or entire systems and processes?
Right now, we still focus mainly on asset specific Digital Twins, although we can and do create system digital twins and processes as well.. A lot of these leverage our extensive domain knowledge that we have and the rich experience and subject matter experts that we have within GE. It is one of the ways that we distinguish ourselves from other software vendors. We have this specific physical understanding of how these assets work, married with the digital capabilities in predictive diagnostics.
Aside from the Digital Twin footprints what else can we expect from APM 4.4?
We want to accelerate our customers’ time to value from APM. One new feature to APM 4.4 is the sensor health reporting and predictive diagnostic coverage that helps us get better diagnostic information earlier in the asset life. The earlier that we can predict degradation and failure, the earlier we can provide users with information that they can act on and the earlier that they can prevent unnecessary expense.
It’s important that APM software is as easy to use as possible. That’s why we have enhanced our visualisation capabilities, providing richer dashboarding and reporting. This makes it much easier for our customers to understand the information that is being collected and to understand the analytics that are then being displayed.
We want our customers to get as much value as possible from APM across their entire organization. So, we have introduced new sister asset charting capabilities for predictive diagnostics that allows us to directly compare the performance of similar assets across the organisation. This allows the user to better understand whether assets are performing in the same way under similar conditions, or whether one asset’s performance is deviating from expected performance or expected behaviour.
Finally, specifically for our process-oriented customers in the oil and gas space, we have delivered new compliance functionality, specifically related to mechanical integrity, and to the integration of our capabilities with asset management systems.
One of the other modules in the APM package is The Generation Availability Analysis Wind (GAA Wind). Can you tell me a bit about this module?
In North America, utility companies that own one or more wind plants report their wind performance and sub-group data to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) using the Generating Availability Data System (GADS) Wind Reporting application. The Generation Availability Analysis Wind (GAA Wind) module uses the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) event data from the GE Renewables Digital Wind Farm suite to help them record generation and loss data for each wind plant in their fleet.
One of our key customers, Exelon, has several wind plants under their control. This new module allows them to report the performance of those turbines, maintaining compliance with NERC requirements. It is a specific reporting application that allows wind farm operators to generate compliant reports.
In the APM Integrity module there are some capabilities to meet European Regulatory Inspection Management requirements and Risk-Based Inspection re-certification. Can you tell me about these?
Compliance is critical to the viability of their business. There are tremendous safety risks associated with an oil and gas refinery so there is a lot of compliance that they must abide by, with a lot of regional specific compliance requirements as well. Whenever we are providing information on specific assets, one of the benefits of that information is that it enables those facilities to prove their compliance.
For example, the risk-based inspection functionality that we have for oil and gas customers allows them to show to regulatory bodies that they have prioritised and inspected the high-risk areas of their plants. This gives them better management of their resources but is the most compliant means by which they can prove to regulatory bodies that their plants are safe.
APM has been spoken about as an important tool for some time but how has industry adopted it?
APM is still new for many industrial companies but it is a proven technology. We have satisfied and moved past the early adopters, but we are certainly not at the stage where every oil and gas refinery or every power generation customer has fully digitised their operations and is fully leveraging the capability of an APM solution.
What we are expecting is that the current COVID-19 situation will help us accelerate and move beyond some of those leading adopters to companies that maybe thought it was not as much of a benefit to them or maybe thought they didn’t have the time or the resources to invest in a digital solution. That movement has picked up a little bit of momentum in the current environment. I think we are on the path towards full penetration of digitalisation.
How well does the industry understand and trust APM?
Different customers are in different phases of their journey. One of the things that we are focused on is getting customers to see the benefits faster. We talk to them about time to value. Getting our customers to recognise the value of APM by improving the speed of deployment, by improving the level of simplicity in their ability to visualise the information, by improving their ability to tie that to automated workflows.
All of those are ways in which we can get customers to start recognising the value of their solution more quickly and then to be able to monetise those benefits and report those benefits. But, to some degree it can be hard to quantify because you are working to prevent issues from occurring. That means you must extrapolate a bit at times to connect the money you have saved by preventing something from happening. Some customers struggle with that more than others, and that is something that we help them with – whether it’s by managing their assets on their behalf, training their teams to integrate the solution into their workflows directly, or any combination in between.
Aside from quantifying the value, what are the other barriers to APM adoption?
The change to the workflow is the other big challenge. When you think about the changes required to move from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance, for example, many companies are used to sending a maintenance crew out on a time basis to check all the various pieces of equipment in a power of plant.
Getting them to understand that that time-based maintenance does not make sense and is not needed can be difficult. They need to learn to trust the information that the APM system is giving them that says these particular assets do not need maintenance right now, but these assets that maybe you had not been planning to spend time with do.
There is a change to workflow and to maintenance patterns that sometimes takes customers time to grasp. There is definitely a change management process that many of our customers go through as they get workers to change the way in which they do their work by relying more on the data and insights that the APM system supplies.
What are the biggest drivers currently for adoption of APM systems?
It is reduction of operating and maintenance costs, improvement of reliability and, in many cases, improvement of the overall efficiency or production of the facility. In power generation, for example, the more that we can help our customers optimise the operation of their plants the better. They can produce energy when it is needed and scale the plant down when it is not needed. In oil and gas, it is about reducing maintenance costs, improving reliability, and reducing risk to their employees.
APM is becoming an established and mature technology. Where next for the solution?
We want to continue to broaden the footprint. APM is a proven, mature solution and more companies can benefit from it – it’s faster, easier than ever before to reduce operational and maintenance spend with this software. We want to continue to broaden the coverage of our predictive analytics, both within specific asset classes but again, moving more towards the process that is being run within those plants and the predictive maintenance of other aspects of the plant.