Early career engineers are smart, driven, eager to learn, and bring fresh ideas to both new and age-old challenges. The Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP) is GE’s pipeline for developing early career talent. Participants – known as Edisons – complete three to four rotations with a GE business in two to three years’ time, working on real engineering projects driven by GE business priorities. The current EEDP class comprises 650 individuals, representing 13 countries.
In addition to business-critical engineering assignments, Edisons build a strong foundation through education and exposure to real-life operating situations. One of those experiences, INNOVATE, explores the developments that are transforming, disrupting, and reshaping the future of GE, along with the challenges that are relevant across GE businesses. INNOVATE’s week-long virtual curriculum includes breakouts and design projects that promote critical thinking and challenge Edisons to move outside the box to deliver for customers.
“INNOVATE explores the technologies that are helping GE build a world that works and digs deeper into how those technologies flex across businesses to fulfill customer needs,” said Marshalla Schile, EEDP executive program manager. “As a key stakeholder on these fronts, it was natural to have GE Research involved in the program and to help show how our technologies tie all our businesses and technical domains together.”
Eighty Edisons completed the inaugural INNOVATE offering earlier this fall; an estimated 500 more will complete the course next year.
INNOVATE 2020 participants from around the world
Making the Most of Virtual
Virtual has become the go-to platform that nobody asked for yet, leveraging the strengths of computer-based learning, INNOVATE delivers a one-of-a-kind experience for GE’s Edisons. This fall, five technical seminars served as INNOVATE’s foundation, covering:
- Additive Manufacturing – GRC’s Additive Technology Director Brent Brunell teamed with GE Additive’s General Manager of Engineering & Technology Christopher Schuppe for a session on the advantages of additive and overcoming pain points to deliver for customers. They talked about the GE product lines based on additive technology and the segments in which additive shows the most potential for growth.
- Artificial Intelligence – AI as a critical asset for product design and manufacturing, customer operations, and services productivity and automation; that was the focus of a presentation by GRC Principal Scientist Scott Evans, GRC Executive Leader-Industrial AI Platforms Achalesh Kumar Pandey, and GE Healthcare Chief Data Scientist Gopal Avinash. They also discussed how GE’s Renewable Energy and Healthcare businesses incorporate AI to enhance product line performance.
- Edge Controls – Edisons attended a seminar on software-defined Edge Controls with GE Research Controls Leader and Edison alumnus Justin John, GE Research’s Aussie Schnore, and GE Renewable Energy’s Karthikeyan Appuraj. The trio discussed how customer needs are driving better control systems and the computing aspects that enable the operation in the field.
- Decarbonization – GE Research’s Patrick Riley teamed with GE Gas Power’s Jeremee Wetherby for a discussion on the physical, chemical, and industrial considerations to develop a strong decarbonization strategy.
- Smart Services – Edisons heard from GE Research experts Dave Vernooy and John Lizzi, and GE Aviation’s Michael Eriksen, about the relevance of generating smart inspection services with technologies that keep products operating and delivering, adding value to our customers, and reducing unplanned costs.
Presenters from the AI technical seminar
In addition to the deep dives, GE Research’s Forge Lab Leaders Ben Verschueren (Niskayuna) and Anuradha Kanamarlapudi (Bangalore) led virtual Forge Labs tours, highlighting several of the lab’s missions, including: Digital Womb, Soteria, and Quantum Computing. GE Research’s Forge Labs are unique in that they comprise small, mission-based teams that, “explore and build what’s possible at the edge of technical feasibility.” Ben and Anuradha showed how the labs promote idea sharing and collaboration; if one team gets stuck, they can pitch to another for insight, or, perhaps, a seemingly irrelevant conversation between co-workers could spark a mission breakthrough.
“At the heart of the Forge is providing a tactile feel of these exponential technologies, and we wanted to sustain as much of that as possible even in a distributed environment. Engaging with the Edisons is two-way – we love to get them excited about the potential of these disruptors… but at the same time we learn from them as they are a very engaged group with a lot of insightful ideas,” said Ben.
GRCs Ben Verschueren talks about the Forge Lab in Niskayuna
The third component of INNOVATE was the engineering design project in which participants worked step-by-step through a real-life engineering challenge with GE’s Additive and Aviation teams. Teams of Edisons:
- Selected one of seven engineering challenges: heat exchanger design, powder bed monitoring solutions, machine soot management, multi-material powder bed parts, additive part speed-to-market, additive part qualification process, and wind turbine concrete tower reinforcement.
- Took the technical problem through ideation & visualization, design rigor, iteration, lean principles, customer impact, and validation.
- Presented a solution to business leaders and other INNOVATE attendees. Winners were selected for Most Innovative Solution, Best Research and Problem Analysis, and Best Customer Presentation.
“12 brilliant ideas were presented, representing the comprehensive, week-long INNOVATE journey,” said Marshalla. “These presentations covered a process that included understanding the problem, conducting research, proposing innovative solutions, and presenting to the customers – all in a truly professional, global, and collaborative environment.”
Lastly, INNOVATE participants joined the business CTOs and engineering leaders for braindates throughout the week. These small session workouts served as a comfortable virtual setting where Edisons could ask questions, network, and gain valuable insight into business priorities, voice of the customers, and more.
Small team discussions during INNOVATE 2020
Driving home value
“We never miss an opportunity to work with the Edisons. Many of our Forge missions have hosted Edison rotations, and we hope to have many more. The early career perspective on technology and how it will change GE and our world is invaluable,” said Ben.
Munesh Makhija, GE Research’s GRC’s VP for advanced technologies and an EEDP executive sponsor said, “I’m proud of our bright young minds across the company for their energy and passion to invent the future of flight, healthcare, and energy.” He continued, “From contributing to the certification of the world’s most powerful jet engine, to launching the largest offshore wind turbine, bringing AI into the clinic to assist medical image diagnostics and supporting our customers in this unprecedented time, our Edisons are having an incredible impact.”
The Edisons in attendance had great things to say about the new INNOVATE curriculum and its insightful approach.
“Being a part of the inaugural INNOVATE class was an unexpectedly incredible experience, since it was conducted completely virtual! I felt engaged and connected throughout and appreciative of the opportunity to converse with and learn from GE leaders,” said Sharon Ghelman, an EEDP from Healthcare.
Gretel Gonzalez from Aviation agreed, saying, “INNOVATE was an experience like no other! A week full of knowledge with experts sharing the state-of-the-art technologies GE Research and other businesses are working on. The greatest thing was being part of these innovative technologies by actually working on a real project with amazing engineers and mentors from all over the world.”
Lastly, Berlin Crist, an EEDP from GRC said, “INNOVATE was a fun experience in learning and practicing the design review process with Edisons from around the globe in an environment that felt challenging but also creative and lighthearted.”