General Electric - Making Machines Cool and Connected to Save Money
Jeff Immelt pulled out the really big iron. General Electric’s (GE) chief executive climbed up to take the stage at a modified film studio in San Francisco and stood next to a 6.87-ton jet engine built by his company. Inside this mass of twisted metal—Immelt told the spectators at the company’s Minds and Machines event—were 20 sensors that monitor the engine’s performance, generating part of the roughly 1 terabyte of information produced on a one-way, cross-country flight. In the years ahead, GE plans to analyze this information as it’s never been analyzed before in a quest to build smarter machines and more lucrative services that it can sell to customers.
The event capped a yearlong effort to convince people in Silicon Valley and elsewhere of the merits of the “Industrial Internet.” That’s the grand wrapper that Fairfield (Conn.)-based GE has put around the idea of a new breed of connected equipment. Be it jet engines, generators, locomotives, or CT scanners, GE wants to extract data from the hardware and enlist teams of its analysts to find ways to make the products operate more efficiently. There’s big money to be had in tweaking giant machines; as Immelt puts it, even a 1 percent improvement in the operations of commercial aircraft would translate into $2 billion less per year in fuel costs for GE’s customers in the airline industry.
Immelt wants GE to produce 20 to 30 applications per year that its $45 billion services group can use as leverage in negotiations. GE has 250,000 machines installed with customers, and Immelt thinks it is in the best position to add intelligence to those machines. Without its own software and big data smarts, GE risks being disintermediated from its own gear. “If you are into these products, you ought to be into the analytics around these products,” Immelt says. “I think people give that up at their own peril.”