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Ganesh Bell: How to Get the Most Out of Your Industrial Assets

Ganesh Bell GE
October 08, 2014
Every industry today is being transformed by the power of software and data, and expectations are high that Big Data will boost profits and give you a competitive advantage.

Whatever your industry, you may have invested in Big Data in the hopes it will increase your efficiency and save you money. Perhaps you have a vision of a self-optimizing plant that gets smarter over time, gives you end-to-end visibility and saves you millions. But the results haven’t materialized, and you’re still looking for a way to turn that data into dollars.

What you may be overlooking is something that’s at the center of your operational technology: the industrial assets. It’s impossible to tackle questions of efficiency and operating costs without starting at the assets.

Assets do the heavy lifting of industrial operations; they’re directly responsible for production. Their efficiency impacts overall efficiency, and their failure can result in huge — and costly — unplanned downtime. Getting the most out of your assets is the first step in transforming your industrial operations.

The idea of asset optimization isn’t new. Technologies such as remote monitoring and diagnostics have existed for years. What is new is an emerging set of digital technologies and delivery models that can connect your people and assets like never before — for better decision-making, prioritizing and efficiency gains. Big Data empowers you to fully analyze all data — historical and real-time, from the assets to the grid. Virtual models of the physical world — continuously updated through the instrumentation of every device, asset and sensor — enables self-learning, self-healing and predictive capabilities.

By harvesting the ubiquitous sensors, data analytics and user experience of the Industrial Internet, you can revolutionize and modernize asset performance. At GE, we refer to this dramatic innovation in software and services solutions for operational technology as Asset Performance Management (APM).

In many ways, assets serve as the eyes and ears of Big Data. Implementing an APM strategy is key for transforming industrial operations to increase efficiency, reduce costs and get the most out of Big Data. APM combines connectivity, data capture, integration, visualization and analytics for the explicit purpose of automating asset-lifecycle management, remote monitoring, condition-based and predictive maintenance, as well as real-time operator intelligence. It’s all about getting the right information and guidance to the right people at the right time.

All too frequently, there’s a disconnect between asset operators, plant managers and operations planners. Take, for example, an electric utility. Let’s suppose the trading desk asks for more power from the plant. Right now, it’s not easy to estimate the cost of that extra output, given the lack of visibility into the assets’ capabilities or performance. So the plant manager, to avoid pushing things beyond the limit, hedges. That may be the sure way to go, but it results in lower productivity — even when there’s actually no risk to stability or safety to increase output. APM solutions provide visibility for both the plant manager and the trading desk, so that efficiency is maximized without compromising the health or safety of any assets in the operations.

At GE Power & Water, we’re harnessing the power of the Industrial Internet to help power companies get more out of their assets. To help Korea Southern Power Company, Ltd. (KOSPO) meet the electricity demands of the fast-growing economy, we upgraded its gas turbines with FlexEfficiency* solutions that ensure steady generation during grid fluctuations. KOSPO, which generates more than a tenth of South Korea’s power, is now producing extra electricity equivalent to what would be required to power 130,000 more homes.

At one of the world’s largest aluminum smelter’s, Dubai Aluminum (DUBAL) in the United Arab Emirates, we installed LifeMax* software and sensors in the gas turbines to help reduce fuel consumption and production costs. The technology has helped boost output by more than 3 percent and reduce consumption by more than 1 percent.

The way we think about APM is that it’s all about zero unplanned downtime for every asset — increasing reliability and availability and decreasing maintenance costs.

The transformation being driven by APM, Big Data and the Industrial Internet is part of a broader change in industry. It’s not a mere digitization of assets, but a full-on digitalization of entire industries. Industrial business models are increasingly digital-powered. Assets are getting connected to the cloud — they can learn, grow and become smarter over time.

APM is a progression that starts with machines, moves through operations, then transforms entire industrial systems. And that’s where the big promise of Big Data really comes to fruition — turning all that data into dollars.

Ganesh Bell is Chief Digital Officer & General Manager, Software & Analytics at GE Power & Water