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Changing the Game of Digital Industry

This post originally appeared on The Washington Post.

GE and WP Brand Studio are partnering to put the lens of industry on Mobile World Congress with special reports live from Barcelona.  Minds + Machines: Speaking Industry is a partner program, made possible by GE. The Washington Post newsroom is not involved in content production.

By Seth Bodnar, Chief Digital Officer, GE Transportation

I’m a big sports fan, especially team sports. I love the fact that success is never attributed solely to the talent of a single athlete—it requires team strategy, coordination and communication to make hundreds of game-time decisions for the big win.

Right now, our team is in the middle of a very dynamic, fast-paced and competitive game that many would find hard to believe is the modern rail industry. But the heavy industrial world is meeting the digital world head on—we have to adapt our playbook and solutions, or we risk losing the game.

At GE Transportation, we’ve been making locomotives for more than a hundred years, and have more than twenty thousand in operation globally. Our hard-earned history and expertise has helped us build our newest evolution series locomotive with more than 200 sensors, processing over a billion instructions per second.

It’s the “smartest” locomotive on the market. And we now have mobile tools enabling a better way to perform locomotive service; analytics and software facilitating smarter maintenance and longer uptime; and embedded software and controls delivering unprecedented equipment performance. Our locomotive business is an integral part of our winning strategy.

But for our customers to win in the digital industrial game, they need more than just smart locomotives. Today, even with incredibly intelligent and reliable locomotives, railroads still experience hundreds of thousands of unexpected operational delays each year, costing the industry billions.

Our customers need a playbook that goes beyond the locomotive—one that leverages enhanced software and analytics capabilities across the full breadth of the rail landscape, weaving a digital thread through their entire operation.

Drafting a winning digital playbook means helping a railroad’s unit of production—a train—reach its destination more efficiently and more reliably. Our goal is to enable a train, through the use of sensors, to continuously gather data about itself and its environment, making the train “aware” so a railroad can make better decisions.

It starts with the “brain” of the train—our GoLINC networking and communications system. The GoLINC effectively turns the locomotive into a mobile data center that collects and processes information from sensors both on and off the train.

Our digital list of plays goes on: Trip Optimizer platform is a smart, automated cruise control system that ingests data, taking into account route topology and conditions, and makes an optimally fuel-efficient plan, recognizing an average of 10 percent fuel savings.

The Trip Optimizer product has logged more than 100 million miles in auto control mode, saving our customers more than 56 million gallons of fuel.

Our LocoVision system and advanced rail integrity monitoring solutions both combine sensors with cutting-edge analytics to prevent problems before they happen and better ensure mission success.

You get the idea. No single play in the playbook is a silver bullet, but the digital thread that is forming from connected software solutions is making a turning point in the game.

But a train is just one part of a broader system—a much larger playing field. With our Movement Planner and Yard Planner products, we’ve developed advanced algorithms to optimize a railroad’s entire network. Rather than manage thousands of variables with no network integration and mostly manual decisions on train routing and yard activities, these solutions mean a railroad can continuously analyze and optimize traffic, allowing more trains to run on the same railroad at faster speeds, with less congestion and dwell and without laying new track.

Rail is a complex playing field and a tough game to win. A simple issue in one part of the network can create ripples throughout the system that can persist for days. The key to driving system-wide efficiency is integrating these solutions into a cohesive platform for a railroad—and that’s where Predix comes in. Predix is the platform for the industrial Internet. We call our connected suite of software solutions RailConnect™ 360.

Our digital industrial playbook combines the latest on-board computing, enterprise software applications and an industrial-scale software platform that integrates these solutions into a cohesive operating system to optimize our customers’ entire rail operations.

And it’s a game changer.

Seth Bodnar is the Chief Digital Officer of GE Transportation and the president of GE Transportation’s Digital Solutions business, which provides a connected suite of software solutions driving productivity, enabling operational efficiency, and enhancing service quality and reliability for the transportation industry.


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