A Look at GE’s Minds and Machines 2017: Predix isn’t a painkiller

As I write, GE is days away from its November 13th announcement re the divestiture of approximately $20 billion of business. This news item cast an interesting shadow over this year’s Minds and Machines conference.

Still, Minds + Machines had its best turnout ever, with 3,500+ attendees coming in from nearly 60 countries. As you can see in the pic, GE went all out to glitz it up, with millions spent on the latest in digital display and presentation. Everything in view was smart, glossy, and aggressively 21st century.

But.

IIoT not up to GE’s expectations

Since 2012 – I remember clearly, I was with GE at the time – GE has sunk a colossal investment into the future of IIoT with its Predix platform. A level of investment no other player was likely to even consider, much less deliver.

But Predix has not grown for GE as expected, a point that CEO Flannery made very clear in his message. If GE had managed to crack the IIoT market in 2013 and establish a stronghold, their only real competitor would have been IBM. Instead, there are now a few hundred IIoT competitors chomping at their heels. And just about everyone’s building off Azure, so the main differentiator is the domain expertise they create for a particular customer in a particular vertical.

GE will need partners

GE will now be focusing on core areas such as power generation, healthcare and aviation. This means that GE Digital will need partners to deliver that domain expertise in non-core areas such as manufacturing – manufacturers who have invested millions of dollars in GE Digital MES / Smart Manufacturing software will want to continue to leverage that investment.

This means there will be manufacturers using Predix looking for support in evolving their systems in food and beverage, CPG, and rolled products, to name but a few. They’re now unsure about GE’s ability to develop apps and support their specific industry needs going forward, and that’s where the partner ecosystem has to step in to deliver their expertise and support.

Vitamin versus painkiller

You can see why IIoT has not caught on as quickly as predicted in manufacturing. For many, IIoT may present as a luxury, a non-necessity, particularly in terms of today’s margin-stressed world.

MES and Smart Manufacturing have been the necessities, the painkillers, the necessities for competitive manufacturers to stay on top. IIoT, by contrast, is linked more to new revenue streams – the non-essential vitamin pill that may help out.

Platform versus product

At heart, Predix is a platform upon which manufacturing IIoT applications can be built.

But just as buying Word won’t make War and Peace or The Great Gatsby magically appear on the page, there’s an intimidating gap between IIoT concept and IIoT working application. And that gap is in a less known field, vs. the more established areas of MES / Smart Manufacturing. Any given manufacturer may lack an established partner in IIoT or the trust they have in more classic cost-cutting solutions.

The word on the street with IIoT is to try and fail fast. In other words, do a pilot and be ready to pivot quickly if results aren’t as hoped. The problem is that today’s manufacturers are lacking both the appetite and the resources to fail. If anything, they’re waiting for someone else to fail fast. Having an experienced partner that significantly improves right-first-time chances is key to successfully leveraging an IIoT platform to deliver new revenue streams.

What next?

Manufacturers will need partners with deep domain experience of implementing GE Digital MES / Smart Manufacturing, plus hands-on experience in integrating IIoT platforms to surround, extend and evolve the GE solution.

Factora is already engaged in providing these outcomes to many Fortune 500 manufacturers. Our team is here to support GE’s manufacturing customers and provide the skills and experience they need to help them continue the journey to world class manufacturing.