4 ways GE is boosting performance and reducing costs with IoT

4 ways GE is boosting performance and reducing costs with IoT

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October 12, 2016
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To fully grasp the potential benefits of the Internet of Things, look no further than General Electric.

GE is making a big bet on industrial Internet of Things technology, also known as the IIoT. And Sanjeev Addala, chief digital officer for the company’s Renewable Energy business unit, makes an excellent case for why the bet will pay off.

Addala came to GE in January of this year from Caterpillar, where he served as the chief digital officer and helped introduce entirely new digital products and services, such as new maintenance programs, by using data collected from sensors and the analytics on the company’s machines.

“We’re able to reduce maintenance costs up to 10 percent and reduce more than 20 percent of unplanned maintenance”

Now he’s undertaking a similar effort at GE. “My focus here is creating a digital business in the energy sector that delivers industrial internet software and data analytics solutions for our customers. We are developing innovative digital solutions, and creating a digital industrial ecosystem to deliver better customer outcomes,” Addala says.

At a base level, GE can offer capabilities in four key areas for renewable energy customers. It starts with a platform that provides capabilities including connectivity, data acquisition, and cyber security, to provide clients with proper risk management.

Next is to use data coming from sensors attached to equipment in the field – whether wind turbines, solar systems or hydro plants – to monitor their health and provide diagnostics and prognostic insights.

Third, by applying industrial analytics to the streams of data coming from all those sensors, and feeding them into virtual representations of the physical asset, GE can identify when a particular piece of equipment is ripe for preventive maintenance, thus prolonging its usable life.

The fourth capability is maintenance optimization, Addala says. This goes a step further than preventive maintenance to ensure maintenance is performed only when it’s necessary. While a rule of thumb may be to replace a part after, say, five years, applying analytics and machine learning can provide a more data-driven schedule – maybe in some cases, the part can last six or seven years while in others it’s only four.

“We’re able to reduce maintenance costs up to 10 percent and reduce more than 20 percent of unplanned maintenance,” he says.

But that’s just the start. Using machine learning algorithms, GE can help customers optimize power production and their operations. “Depending on the wind conditions and direction, you may need to change the pitch of the blades, the rotation of the turbine or other parameters to maximize production,” Addala says. “We’re able to deliver annual energy production increases up to 10 percent.”

GE also uses software and analytics to help customers optimize the business operations end of the renewable energy equation. Energy producers ultimately sell energy to others, and prices constantly fluctuate based on supply and demand.

“They need to forecast to bid correctly,” he says. “We developed smart analytics so that, based on weather conditions, we can forecast how much production there will be from their wind turbines and solar farms. We give customers all that actionable intelligence so they can plan the right strategy, thus increasing their revenues by two to three percent.”

Renewable energy is just one area where GE is putting its software analytics capabilities to use. Using its Industrial Internet operating system Predix, GE offers similar services in many of its business units while also encouraging customers and partners to build their applications on top of it.

“This is game-changing, how software analytics can optimize both operations and business outcomes,” Addala says.

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Paul Desmond has been working as an IT trade press reporter, writer and editor since 1988.  He has extensive experience covering a range of technologies, including networks, unified communications, security, storage, virtualization and application strategies.

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