The global pandemic has manufacturers of all sizes focused on enabling resilience and capitalizing on innovation. For many, this means accelerating digital transformation efforts to enable operations to survive today and ultimately thrive as business environments return to some sense of normalcy.
Understandably, as a provider (and user) of digital technology, GE finds itself deeply intrenched in many of these initiatives. “We have been focusing a great deal on doing a deep dive into what drives customer economics and business outcomes. Having this understanding allows us to leverage all our capabilities – software, scale, and global reach – to really enable companies to move their digital transformation forward to expand their capabilities and accelerating growth," says GE Digital CEO Pat Byrne.
Of course, helping companies through the process has also revealed a few key lessons learned.
- Importance of data governance. “We know from working with many companies, and through our own ongoing digital transformation inside of GE, having strong data management skills and capabilities is crucial in effectively accelerating the digital transformation journey,” he says. “The ability to leverage these skills helps the operations team better understand the organization’s business processes, which is key to identifying gaps. Byrne tells IndustryWeek, GE Digital’s domain expertise has led to engagement and opportunities to work together with a wide array of manufacturing, helping them solidify business processes. “A lot of what digital transformation does is put business processes and data management systems in place, either where they did not exist or lacked a robust system,” he says. “We've done some really interesting work inside of GE leveraging the value stream map to see how the data and the processes flow together. This is how the underlying fabric of the organization gets exposed to digital transformation.”
- Growing software role. As more companies have embarked on accelerating their digital transformation it has clearly demonstrated the mission critical importance of having the right software in place. “This is especially true in the current environment where there's fewer people available, and more remote work. In a lot of ways, the software structures these operational processes to be reliable, safe, scalable and supportable,” he says. “Manufacturers are relying even more on having these capabilities. The ability to implement, test, verify validate and then count on technology depends heavily on software.”
GE Digital also recently joined the Digital Twin Consortium as one of the founding members. According to Byrne, the consortium is a group of industry players meeting together to move digital twin capabilities forward across a wide array of different industries.
“Digital twins are now one of those terms so broadly used that it's become a catchy phrase around the idea that there's this digital representation of the physical world,” he says. “We have tremendous domain expertise with a deep physics-based, asset-centric view of the digital twin. We also offer a strong understanding of the process twin – a broader view of how business processes are affected.”
For example, in the energy grid GE Digital brings tremendous understanding of the of renewables orchestration and how that is represented in a data set. “If you're on the grid, you really want to be able to manage the renewables and the other power sources effectively to optimize overall performance,” he says. “To do that, you need a representation of all those elements.”