General Electric, the largest US industrial company, is going through a transformation. It has a new CEO at the helm, has relocated headquarters to Boston, and most important, is trying to position itself as a manufacturing leader in the digital era.
Since 2011-2012, GE has made several strategic business moves to leverage its core competencies: spun off its financial services unit, GE Capital; acquired French company Alstom's power and grid business; launched GE Digital to bring various software groups such as engineering, product development, and IT under one umbrella, and opened its cloud-based software platform for the Industrial Internet, Predix, to outside developers.
Currently, GE has roughly 250 employees at a rental space in the city’s Fort Point area and plans to eventually bring 800 workers once it constructs the new headquarters. Earlier in August, citing cost concerns, GE said it would break up the construction into two phases, pushing back the completion to 2021 from mid-2019.
Jeff Erhardt, GE’s VP of Intelligent Systems, said that machine learning, artificial intelligence along with domain expertise will help boost GE’s digital future. And Predix, its own IOT platform, will play a central role in managing complex data. The platform currently has 100 apps – from MRI machines to turbines to jet engines – created by developers, including many from outside, who mine complex industrial data to make the machines perform more safely and efficiently.
“We spend time understanding how man and machine works, how we can automate and augment decisions,” Erhardt said. “We are going to big tech companies, cherry-picking their top people and they recognize that we are probably 20 years behind what’s going in Google or Facebook, and digitization is the coming next biggest thing (in the industry).”