Factory 3.0: The Brilliant Factory Brings Hardware, Software and Data Together
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.
I admit, it can be hard at times to explain what the convergence of IT and OT looks like. But when I talk about how the new industrial architecture of hardware, software and data comes together in a “Brilliant Factory,” the concept crystallizes for people. Machines working efficiently and intelligently with increased speed, less waste and no unplanned downtime is a vision that CIOs can conjure to explain how industry is transforming.
No two factories are the same, but they all share the same goal: optimal performance through smart resource management. That requires embedding sensors and leveraging GE software to gather data and use those insights to drive productivity and performance optimization. The Brilliant Factory puts a “digital thread” through operations, from product design all the way to supplier management so we can see performance and output in real time.
The end goal is to move faster and deliver for our customers. We’ve started down the road by implementing Brilliant Factory pilots at 16 of our 400 global factories. These Brilliant Factories are built on four pillars:
Digital Design and Prototyping Takes Flight
Leveraging 3D models (including product and manufacturing information or PMI) for our products, we close the gap between engineering and manufacturing. It helps us significantly shorten new product introduction (NPI) processes by allowing us to iterate rapidly and reduce product design cycle time by up to 30%.
We’ve seen this in our Aviation facility in Wilmington, NC, where model-based design and virtual manufacturing has reduced our new part cycle time by 10 weeks.
Machines That Speak To Us
Given enough time, machines will break. The key is to manage that process and keep downtime to a minimum. We’ve done that at our Transportation facility in Grove City, PA, where we’ve seen a 10-20% reduction in unplanned downtime. How? By equipping machines with sensors that relay the operating conditions and then analyzing the data to improve performance.
By connecting and listening to machines we’re able to recognize they’re going to fail and move to fix them faster—resulting in higher availability, lower costs, and improved quality as we can see critical machine data and make proactive adjustments.
Improved Decision Making
In the midst of all this discussion of 3D models, sensor-enabled machines and process automation, it’s important to remember that factories are run by humans who need the best available data to make the decisions. Real-time monitoring and dashboards of a plant’s machines, material and labor give managers visibility into operations and arm them with the information they need to increase productivity.
Supply Chain Optimization
For us to build a truly successful Brilliant Factory, we have to extend the concept beyond just the one facility to our broader network of supporting plants and to our suppliers. We’re working to better connect these various entities and integrate their data into our environment. This final piece ensures high quality and on-time delivery.
At its core, the concept of the Brilliant Factory is about gathering data, learning and optimizing. It requires a new mindset on the factory floor, but we’re learning how to shorten the feedback loops and expand the approach to more facilities and customers. We like to talk about how customers can “Get Connected, Get Insights, Get Optimized.” The first step in the journey is giving machines the power to speak so we can pull the data and get information into the right hands. That helps us to make the right decisions at scale and more efficiently than ever before—with visibility in days versus months.
We started at GE with small pilot projects and now it’s transforming how we make things. We’re going to roll our Brilliant Manufacturing Suite soon to help our customers make the transformation themselves. I encourage all industrial CIOs to take that first step and see how the Brilliant Factory can transform their operations.
Please join us in the comments and at GEsoftware.com to continue the discussion.