Driving operational efficiency… from the factory floor, up
In my earlier posts, I’ve talked a lot about the state of the industry, and the need to achieve greater efficiency and speed-to-market. It’s all very well making these statements but as a leader at GE Oil & Gas, a multi-billion dollar business, the most important thing is how – together with my teams – we then take action, driving the strategic initiatives that are integral to transforming the way we work.
While our people are pivotal to our success, there are also important environmental factors that cannot be ignored when looking at ways to operate more efficiently. It’s something that’s on my mind a lot these days, as we consider the various improvements being made across our organization… from our manufacturing facilities, up.
At the Underwater Technology Conference (UTC) in Bergen in June, I shared some thoughts on our digital journey at GE. This is a space that is changing immeasurably day-by-day – faster, even – and it’s transforming our operations in ways we would have found it hard to imagine a decade ago. For someone who started their career on the shop floor, it is staggering to think of the potential that digitization offers to our business, our customers and this industry.
An area in which we’ve been making exciting in-roads is our equipment testing and assembly (T&A) process. The equipment we make needs to work in extreme conditions, so it goes without saying that the rigorous checks we put it through before installation are mission-critical.
In our plants in Aberdeen and Montrose (Scotland), we’ve had a team looking specifically at how digital tools and big data can be used to enhance the T&A process. We have replaced our old systems, leveraging Predix™, GE’s cloud-based operating system for the industrial internet, to collect huge amounts of information from our hydrostatic cells and gas pits during testing. These new systems feed data into the cloud every 10 minutes and with thorough analysis, we’ve increased first pass yield by around 30 per cent - a massive productivity gain. We’re using data to drive quality, safety and on-time delivery.
If you were in Stavanger for Offshore Northern Seas (ONS), you will likely have come across our GE Oil & Gas booth. I’m sure you’ll agree it was a great space, and you can’t have missed our advanced manufacturing zone. Manufacturing has been part of GE’s DNA from the beginning and, through our Brilliant Factories initiative, we’re creating the next generation of the factory floor. We’re becoming increasingly connected by the industrial internet, deploying advanced manufacturing techniques and intelligent machines to make things better and faster. For ONS, we shipped some of our latest investments out to Norway so they could be seen in action, including Sawyer - one of our ‘co-bots’ - and our laser tracker.
Sawyer is a great example of the advanced robotics we’re seeing enter into the oil and gas space. In our case, we’re using him to help with jobs that have a high degree of repeatability, freeing up our people to work on more complex tasks. A real benefit is the flexibility offered by the robot, which can be moved between operations and programmed quickly and simply. We’ve also introduced automated cladding for tubing hangers and flexible pipe end-fittings, with a two-month test conducted earlier this year in our Brent Avenue facility in Montrose showing a capacity increase from 20 to 47 units per month. So we’re not only improving efficiency today, but also building the enhanced capabilities our business will need in future.
Meanwhile, our laser tracker has been driving a step-change in how we measure the ‘critical-to-quality’ dimensions of our subsea equipment, introducing a new degree of precision to our operations and significantly reducing the risk of non-conformance during assembly.
These tools - and the results they’re providing - merely scratch the surface of the various improvements we’re making, which I’m sure you’ll hear my team and I talk about more as we continue to be a pioneering force in the subsea arena and beyond.