These days, the term “digital industrial” is becoming more and more ubiquitous, as digital technology continues to lead a sea-change throughout the economy, including in the industrial environment.
“Until the beginning of this century, the only way to repair or gain detailed information about the status of any operating industrial equipment was to be standing right in front of that equipment … in order to inspect it or fix it,” said Chief Information Officer for GE Africa, Abu Sulemana.
“Today, by embedding smart sensors in these equipment, and connecting them to the internet, we are now able to virtualise this maintenance task. We can now fix equipment and proactively monitor their performance thousands of miles away,” said Sulemana.
Thanks to technological advances, GE can optimise operations to improve asset performance while keeping costs down. This is why combining software and data analytics with machines’ hardware has become so important, including in Africa.
“Our customers in Africa demand the same equipment performance as the rest of the world and they are constantly looking at ways to enhance asset performance. Forty of our Oil and Gas customers in Africa are using our Digital solutions to optimise operations,” said Sulemana.
Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world, but the continent still faces significant challenges around clean water, power, transportation and healthcare. It may sound counter-intuitive, but digital solutions are perfect for a continent where access to basic services such as power generation is still intermittent. For instance, one customer impacted by the lack of telecommunications infrastructure was able to make use of a smart device with multiple SIM cards to relay information, which proved to be cheaper than more traditional data collection devices.
In Malawi, GE is installing energy management systems to stabilise and modernise its transmission network. Malawi’s goal is to secure its power generation and to improve the availability, reliability and quality of its power supply, and the system GE is providing will allow real-time remote monitoring, planning and optimisation of the national power transmission system.
In South Africa, GE is developing digital solutions for Transnet.
“More so than simply developing solutions for customers, we are also using these new technologies to drive internal productivity. We want to write the blueprint from a leaders’ perspective to improve operations and decision-making with data analytics,” said Sulemana.
GE is walking its own talk. Every day, engineers at GE analyse 50-million data elements from 10-million sensors on $1-trillion worth of equipment. By the end of 2016, GE expects to realise at least $500-million worth of increased productivity, and customers will be the ultimate beneficiaries of these technological advances.