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Asset performance management: Three IIoT case studies from GE Digital

General Electric reckons the convergence of machines, data and analytics will contribute $10 to $15 trillion to global GDP in efficiency gains over the next two decades. It has spent at least $1 billion to develop its own Predix platform, like an industrial internet of things (IIoT) operating system, to capture a share of this ‘fourth industrial revolution.’

On stage, at IoT World Europe in London this week, Deborah Sherry, senior vice president and chief commercial officer of the company’s GE Digital division, established for the Predix platform and industrial change, presented three case studies to show how the market is already delivering efficiency savings and productivity gains. Here’s the detail.

SIG | ASSET MAINTENANCE IN FOOD AND BEVERAGES

Food and beverage packaging company SIG is in the process of deploying GE Digital’s Predix platform, running its asset performance management (APM) and field service management (FSM) applications, in around 400 of its customers’ factories. SIG’s customers fill more than 10,000 products into SIG packaging across 65 countries worldwide. In 2017, SIG produced 33.6 billion carton packs for its customers. The point, as with every instance of industrial transformation, is to improve performance.

“It has 2,500 machines around the globe, and every one has a unique maintenance plan. It wanted to better maintain machines at scale and at lower cost – from very beginning of the process, at the packaging and filling, through to the end, when the goods are being shipped out on pallets,” explains Sherry. The initial SIG deployment goes live in July 2018; global rollout starts in January 2019. The pair will develop packaging solutions and technologies to address the industry’s two biggest needs: asset performance and service delivery.

By collecting and analysing asset data, GE Digital will enable SIG to tap into “billions of data points” from across its operations in real time on its Predix platform. SIG and its customers will move beyond traditional asset monitoring and predictive service models to “reimagine” their supply chain, enhance quality control and evolve their portfolio, it says.

“It’s not just about the machines themselves; the goal is also to standardise and optimise maintenance and field services. SIG provides these big machines, and the maintenance as well; it has field service engineers going out to these 400 factories,” explains Sherry. SIG gets paid partly on uptime, she notes. There is a domino effect when a machine goes down at the top of the supply chain. “Maintaining machines before they break down to improve uptime is critical,” says Sherry.

The combination of the APM and FSM applications on Predix in novel, she suggests. “For the first time, ever, anywhere in the world, SIG and GE Digital are launching an integrated product with asset performance management and field service management capabilities, and bringing it to market.”

She adds: “It’s enabling SIG to transform ahead of the competition; it is breaking new ground, and leaping ahead of its competitors.”

DB CARGO | ASSET MAINTENANCE IN RAIL AND FREIGHT

GE Digital has a line on its blog page about making trains ‘talk’ for the first time since Thomas the Tank Engine. You get the idea; the company is retro-fitting 250 Deutsche Bahn Cargo (DB Cargo) locomotives in Germany, Britain, France and Poland with “thousands” of sensors to take constant readings of critical functions, including brake performance, motor temperature and other conditions.

DB Cargo trains haul everything from raw resources like coal to finished products like cars. But like all rail traffic, they sometimes run into delays, and trains become stuck on the track. “That is an expensive problem, because a broken-down train causes problems down the value line, for customers to meet their demand,” says Sherry.

The challenge is to improve maintenance and uptime. “Most modern rail freight operators, like most of the world frankly, still runs maintenance on a rotor, driven by mileage or time rather than the actual condition of the parts – and regardless of their condition. They are doing preventative maintenance, whether it is needed or not,” explains Sherry.

DC Cargo trains will transfer information via GSM modules, also retro-fitted, to a shoebox-sized telematics box in the back of the driver’s dashboard, and onwards every few seconds to a control centre at DB Cargo’s head office in Frankfurt, Germany, popping up on screens at one of the dozen-or-so maintenance depots across Europe.

Technicians can then analyse the data to predict when components such as the brakes or the water tank might need maintenance. The solution makes the same play of GE’s asset performance management (APM) software, running in its Predix platform, as the SIG model.

“We are analysing the terabytes of data from all these locomotive to ensure they’re improving uptime, to ensure we are predicting what maintenance they need – based on the actual condition of the engine, so the right engineer goes out before the engine breaks down, which saves costs and improves the experience,” says Sherry.

Cameras are being fitted to the bottom of trains as well to monitor the condition of tracks.

SCHINDLER | ASSET MAINTENANCE IN ELEVATORS AND ESCALATORS

Swiss group Schindler has teamed up with GE Digital to connect one million elevators, escalators and moving walkways. It already gathers data from calls and sensors to keep track of its products in service. It is about to take its digital monitoring to a higher level, however. Like with the above examples, the idea is to bring intelligence to asset maintenance, and ultimately to reduce downtime and costs.

For Schindler, one of the biggest costs, besides the manufacturing, is maintenance, says Sherry. “Schindler moves a billion people every day. The health of its assets, and management of their maintenance, is critical,” she explains, telling the story of a stuck elevator in a high-rise on a Friday night. “It’s not a good scenario if an engineer can’t come out until Monday. You can’t be stuck in elevator without food and water. That can’t happen.”

As it stands, lift companies typically work a service model based on an engineer being available within 15 minutes of every elevator, everywhere in the world. Lift engineers, with highly specialised knowledge, might command salaries of €150,000 per year, says Sherry. GE Digital has deployed additional sensors in Schindler ‘elevators and escalators’ to create the so-called ‘ee-IoT’, to pre-empt deterioration and failures. “The company is lowering costs dramatically,” says Sherry.

In addition, Schindler is selling its data, about footfall on its lifts and stairways, to the owners and managers of buildings, notably shopping malls. “They know which areas of the mall have the most traffic, so the data is valuable to optimise the rents that are charge; they can know which is the most valuable property,” explains Sherry.

She adds: “Together we have achieved a great reduction of service values, improved fleet availability on time, and this is at heart of why you digitise an asset, because it improves your asset uptime. And this approach doesn’t just apply to trains, but to many industrial sectors.”

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