GE just opened a new factory where they can test the future in South Carolina. The new Advanced Manufacturing Works is packed with $75 million dollars of the latest big-data analytics and cutting-edge technology – much of it not yet available on the open market.
“This facility is the bridge between the lab and reality,” said Kurt Goodwin, who manages the space. “It’s an incubator. We collaborate with engineers to allow them to realize their big ideas and help turn them into a process that you can do reliably over again at the right price.”
The plant is essentially designed to accelerate the process that occurs between an engineer’s light bulb moment and mass production. With a wealth of machinery at their fingertips, Goodwin’s colleagues are able to test out new design and manufacturing ideas, rapidly conduct tests and produce prototypes in order to finalize the design, before giving the go-ahead for large-scale production that can keep pace with market demand.
Predix software is also used to stream information over the secure ‘Industrial Internet’ into the cloud for analysis and problem resolutions, a process that comprises part of what GE terms the “digital thread” which allows rapid information sharing between the highly-specialized team. “It’s Uber for industry”, quipped Clay Johnson, GE Power’s chief information officer, when speaking of this innovative data sharing system.
Steve Bolze, GE Power’s CEO, acknowledged that technology can only take us so far. “We have robotics and 3D printers”, Bolze said after Friday’s opening ceremony, “But this place is really about the people who trust each other enough to take risks together and create the future.”
Sometimes being really big is really great. So are the benefits to GE. Here they can test design concepts, develop next generation workflows, train engineers, iterate software and yes even get products to market faster. As for what it has to do with drones… nothing. Yet.