Director of Retail, Shopify
At GE Digital, Colin Parris is overseeing an effort to use “digital twins” through the company’s production lines.
The concept is similar to how a retailer like Amazon will gather a customer’s data and use it to target ads or promotions. Instead of a consumer, however, it’s a jet engine or wind turbine, and the technology can be used to better monitor products for things like expected maintenance or to optimize performance. For example, GE could test different types of fuel on a digital jet engine to see what type worked best.
Unlike most items that you would buy on Amazon, a jet engine can last for 40 years or more, which creates an opportunity to earn revenue on servicing its parts for decades. Digital twin technology helps companies like GE do that better.
“I'm collecting all that data, understanding how the asset is working, how it's failing, and I find ways to increase the availability and maintain it,” Parris tells Business Insider. “That’s the transformation I see in the manufacturing sector.”
The hurdle is gathering the data and purchasing the equipment like sensors that are necessary to create digital twins that mimic reality. And unlike Amazon that can invest billions in its digital overhaul, manufacturers are often operating on much lower margins.
That’s why Parris is so bullish on lean manufacturing, a business process that focuses on maximizing operational profits while reducing or eliminating aspects that don’t provide value.
“Rather than asking for investments, lean itself is getting you the investment needed to make the digital changes,” he says.