Weaving the Digital Thread
We live in extraordinary times. In recent years we’ve witnessed great wonders, from exploring nearly every object in our vast solar system to proving the existence of the smallest sub-atomic particle ever detected.
These achievements are more complex than any one person can comprehend. And yet we do understand the transformative impact they have.
GE’s digital industrial transformation is rather like that. Not all can comprehend every aspect of it and yet we all have the capacity to grasp its transformative power. And it begins and ends with the Digital Thread.
The Digital Thread weaves through the product development process from conception, design and 3D prototyping, to testing and design validation to create a more robust product design, to manufacturing the product in our Brilliant Factories. It supports the supply chain to facilitate delivery, installation and commissioning. It manages the monitoring and control of the product, delivering information on its health and performance throughout its entire life-cycle.
The foundation of this digital structure is the Model Based Enterprise (MBE), which maintains accurate 3D computer-assisted design (CAD) models and shares them across the enterprise. The MBE enables all functions to collaborate, visualize, access, and re-use specific product data, from creation to end-of-life. GE is applying the model-based enterprise process to improve what it does internally to design, machine, source, repair and communicate. These models drive standardization.
A model can be a single part, like a turbine blade. It can be a whole system, from blade to compressor and from compressor to facility. A model can be product life-cycle management. In fact, GE creates special models called “Digital Twins”. A Digital Twin – a digital copy of the physical asset – evolves with the product over its lifetime providing data and insights that can be used for optimization. The MBE can model any simple or complex element involved in the creation and deployment of a GE asset, with all the attendant data.
Are you still reading? If your eyes are glazed over, I understand. The digital industrial transformation is disruptive and a little unnerving. It should be. It’s forcing many of us out of our comfort zone.
So what do we do about it? The rise of the digital industrial—especially in Oil & Gas but across many industries—did not come equipped with a playbook. We are writing our own playbook at GE. First we accept the need for speed and the role of iterative experimentation. We have the courage to be wrong. Thomas Edison was a master at this. I urge you to embrace it. Continue to do what you do well and enhance your ability to use data. Learn to use the available digital tools. But remember, it’s not about the tools in the end; it’s about the output and the outcome.
Make progress. Last year most of us in the industry didn’t understand model-based systems, but this year we do. For others it is a different digital mountain. We might not know how to climb it yet, but we understand the point. So when you think about the digital industrial transformation, focus on this thought: This is not a single initiative, nor is it in the future. It’s here and now, and you should be all in.
If you’re interested in reading more about what GE is doing within Digital Industrial—Check out these links: