Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit: Where to focus your next digital initiative

Matthew Wells took to the main stage at Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit 2019 to discuss how manufacturers are already optimising their activities using industrial data – delivering productivity gains that support their sustainability, financial and operational goals.

As a large industrial manufacturer and developer of industrial software, GE Digital sees three trending topics currently – the Circular Economy, the return of lean manufacturing, and cloud-based analytics.

According to Sir David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and many eminent scientists, achieving a Circular Economy is fundamental to the future of human life here on Earth.

“Many corporations are making, and have made, sustainability a core strategic pillar and when you combine the key goals of sustainability and the ability of the Internet of Things to allow new connectivity, automation and collaboration, the reality of the Circular Economy becomes possible,” Wells noted.

“The Circular Economy is where sustainability meets profitability. It’s about industrial companies making and saving money by better managing their resources and waste. Waste can be reduced, monetised and circulated across supply chains and value networks as you can see in the circular graphic [below].”


Circular Economy - image courtesy of SOURCE:https://www.government.nl/topics/circular-economy/from-a-linear-to-a-circular-economy


However, Wells rightly highlighted that creating (and sustaining) a more circular economy is highly complex and requires input from across multiple value chains. Things are starting to happen, added Wells, and small incremental improvements can and do make a big difference.

Four areas where GE Digital has solutions or is developing manufacturing-specific solutions:

  1. Digitising and optimising operations
  2. Extending asst life through better maintenance, and
  3. Reducing energy, waste and emissions
  4. The business is also developing Digital Value Stream Mapping tools to help manufacturers pinpoint where there is waste in their systems, and easily determine what to do about it

“As our ability to digitise our factories and our value chains improves, it will become easier to identify the economic value of our manufacturing waste,” said Wells.

“There is huge economic opportunity here. One of our customers, Procter & Gamble, has saved more than US$2bn in the past 10 years on what would now be referred to as their ‘circular economy journey’; and it’s estimated that globally, an additional US$700bn per year awaits organisations who circulate materials instead of starting from scratch.”

Lean is back!

For many manufacturers, lean – or any similar continuous improvement methodology – never went away, it’s part of their DNA.  However, there are other organisations whose lean journey isn’t so mature.

Lean is built on a foundation of measurement and process control. Digital tools now make lean easier to implement and measure, noted Wells.

“The data collection, mobile access and analysis pieces have been enabled hugely by the IoT; and so we are starting to see a resurgence of lean and other approaches as digitalisation aligns with these methodologies to help accelerate continuous improvement.”


digital initiative Going Digital - Lean Manufacturing - IoT IIoT - courtesy of GE Digital


Real world case study

Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers and a long-time customer of GE Digital.

P&G understood early that digital tools are critical for staying competitive, and has been partnering for years with GE Digital to transform its manufacturing processes, giving their operating teams the digital tools they need to improve their business results.

P&G has implemented GE Digital solutions in more than 100 plants worldwide and has improved operator and production efficiency, maintained its focus on safety and quality within the manufacturing process, and overall better leveraged its real-time manufacturing data locally and globally, according to Wells.

“For P&G, the next step in their digital transformation journey was to optimise what they already had. Fast-changing market demand imposed the need for continuous improvement and P&G wanted to do more to meet data compliance regulations, improve the speed of production in its factories, and to do it at a lower cost.”


Proctor and Gamble - GE Digital (1)


Most companies are only scratching the surface when it comes to unlocking their data’s potential, with many losing the value of up to 70% of collected manufacturing data.

“P&G realised that too and by aggregating their manufacturing data into the cloud it now has visibility of each plant individually, and it has aggregated data into a single dashboard of multiple plants that is providing insights that drive efficiencies across plants,” he continued.

“This also opens the door to the next step for P&G – the capability for further powerful analytics to drive even greater value.   They get real-time visibility into plant performance now, but also have the infrastructure for predictive analytics for the future.”

Five reasons to move to the Cloud:

  1. Increased visibility on enterprise performance – the bringing together of data from multiple sites and sources to improve enterprise-level performance visibility
  2. Analytics potentialbeyond visualisation, the Cloud brings an increased ability to produce elaborate analyses on the operation of the plant or plants. Thanks to the power of big data, companies can identify malfunctions and sources of productivity by processing together previously separated data. For example by combining manufacturing data with other data from different sources, for example cost or quality, even environmental data.
  3. Replicate best-in-class across fleet – this is like applying the concept of your ‘golden batch’ to all your manufacturing sites, but needs both numbers one and two to be in place.
  4. Cost reduction – many companies are turning CAPEX tied up in local servers to OPEX by moving data into the Cloud and only paying for consumption. Updates can also be made remotely and continuously, further reducing resource requirements.
  5. Security – most large Cloud solution providers have better cybersecurity than your typical on-premise solutions.


Matthew Wells is VP Digital Product Management for GE Digital. Connect with him on LinkedIn