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How GE will bring the Industrial IoT to life

Thor Olavsrud | March 17, 2016
The venerable General Electric is undergoing a profound change as the result of digital transformation and the Industrial Internet of Things. Its evolution is providing insight into what's coming for the industrial sector overall.

Six Sigma meets the Internet of Things

But Six Sigma is often criticized for its rigidity. It can be slow, plodding. In the new, digital world, speed and agility are the name of the game.

"The real sweet spot for IoT everywhere is agile velocity," says Bernardo, who spoke with CIO.com at an IoT Meetup in Boston last month. "You need to be able to pivot on a dime to try something new."

"Rather than putting together a project plan that ends with a big bang in three years, you need to carve out some specific outcome that can be delivered in the near-term," he adds.

That's not to say that GE will abandon its Six Sigma heritage overnight, but driven by GE Digital and Immelt's mandated digital transformation of GE's own manufacturing plants, the company is increasingly adopting agile approaches, Bernardo says. It's eating its own dogfood.

"You have to start with a conversation with the stakeholders," he says. "Go after the assets that are going to drive the most value in your business; find out where you have the most unplanned downtime today. Then figure out how to digitize it and go after it immediately."

And by "you," Bernardo means CIOs and the IT function. In the past, the primary stakeholders in the manufacturing space were the operations teams. But that's now shifting toward the CIO and the IT team as a whole, he says, as IT becomes the life's blood of the plant. Agile CIOs who can identify incremental value and deliver it to stakeholders rapidly will excel.

"Businesses really want to go faster than they ever have before," Bernardo adds. "You have to avoid the big bang approach. Put incremental value in the hands of the right stakeholders in the business and allow them to drive change management internally. That's where you really start to start to drive some speed."

One of the big hurdles to doing so simply comes down to change management, Bernardo says, particularly around requirements.

"One of the biggest transitions we had to make in the manufacturing space was learning that custom experiences is not necessarily the path to speed or wide-scale value," he says.

In the past, most plants had lengthy lists of requirements that made running each plant a custom experience, he says. Whatever those requirements were, the services team would agree and make it work. But many of those requirements weren't backed up by best practices. In many cases, Bernardo says, they were there simply because that's how it had always been done, or even for reasons that might no longer apply. Regardless, those requirements could create bottlenecks in the design and maintenance of such environments.

 

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