Think manufacturing in the U.S. is an anachronism? You won’t after you read the recent TIME Magazine cover story "Made in the USA" that discusses how U.S. manufacturing is staging a comeback. The article highlights how GE is breaking new ground by applying big data, software and analytics to the manufacturing process.

For example, our 200,000 sq. ft. battery plant based in Schenectady, New York has more than 10,000 installed sensors connected to a high-speed Ethernet network to monitor every aspect of the manufacturing process. The most critical part of the battery is its ceramictube involved in 2/3rds of the manufacturing process. We monitor critical parameters of the creation of this part including:

  • How batches of powder are being used to form the ceramics at the heart of the batteries
  • How high a temperature is being used to bake them
  • How much energy is required to make each battery, and even the local air pressure

The plant manager runs the entire operation--from lights to heat to inventory to purchasing and maintenance--from an iPad, on which he gets a real-time stream of data from wireless sensors embedded in each product rolling off the line. The data, which can be called up on the plant floor at a moment’s notice by employees with iPads, not only allows production to be monitored as it occurs, but also it can also help predict what might go wrong - recording, for instance, the average battery life in Bangladeshi heat vs. Mongolian cold.

So imagine a world where companies will know everything there is to know about their products - what day it was made, the health of the equipment that produced it, how it was made, who made it, its entire genealogy, manufacturing history, and use profile.  We will be able to correlate the variations in manufacturing and usage to product performance, accelerate learning, and ultimately provide GE customers with a better experience.

Even though the Industrial Internet is just in its infancy, more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S. in the past three years.  And TIME reporter Richard Stengel points out what we already knew -- the Industrial Internet is fueling the growth of high-paying jobs for software engineers, data scientists and user-experience designers. Great news that “Made in the USA” is making a comeback.

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About the author

Bill Ruh

Chief Digital Officer, GE and CEO, GE Digital

Bill Ruh is the chief executive officer for GE Digital as well as the senior vice president and chief digital officer (CDO) for GE. Bill is responsible for global IT as well as creating GE’s Digital Thread, a next-generation system for streamlining design, manufacturing, and support processes. He joined GE in 2011 to establish its Industrial Internet strategy and to lead the convergence of the physical and digital worlds within GE globally. Previously, Bill was vice president at Cisco, where he held global responsibility for developing advanced services and solutions. A 30-year veteran of the software and Internet industries, he has held executive management positions at Software AG, Inc., The Advisory Board, The MITRE Corporation, and Concept 5 Technologies. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science from California State University, Fullerton.

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