GE Digital’s CEO, Pat Byrne, provided ARC Advisory Group with his thoughts on helping customers progress on their digital transformation journey during a pandemic. Mr. Byrne discussed what he is hearing from GE Digital’s customers and how they are responding to the unpredictability and disruption caused by the pandemic. He addressed ideas on how the company’s software can help its customers keep their employees safe and operations running during the pandemic and how digital technologies could help make industrial companies more resilient. He also shared his thoughts on what the future will look like, how the world will change, and how customers can apply the lessons from COVID -19 going forward.
How End Users Are Responding to the Pandemic
Mr. Byrne spent much of his time in recent months working from home and speaking with GE Digital’s customers around the world, which range from process and discrete manufacturing, utilities, and power generation companies. The first steps many of these customers took in response to the pandemic were to stabilize their organizations, then figure out how to get the right people in the right places to support their businesses while keeping employees safe. The next steps were to determine the new business barriers and then make the needed adjustments. Not surprisingly, software emerged as a key tool to help these customers continue their operations remotely. Many of GE Digital’s customers are trying to speculate what recovery will look like, what the new normal will be, and when it will occur. But overall, they are trying to be resilient and focus on fulfilling their own customers’ needs.
Customer Experiences as a Result of the Pandemic
Mr. Byrne explained that one issue now affecting most GE Digital customers is how to adjust their workforces and make sure they can continue to operate when, at best, only a limited number of employees can come into their facilities and even then, must maintain social distancing. Enabling employees to work remotely and productively is a top priority.
But the pandemic has not had a major impact on all GE Digital customers’ businesses. For example, a regulated utility that caters primarily to residential customers is still delivering electricity and seeing similar demand (in many cases) to what it was before the pandemic. Other customers have had to adjust their businesses to meet rapid growth in demand for existing or new products. Pulp & paper manufacturers, for example, are mobilizing to keep up with the demand for both bath tissue and cardboard used for shipping containers. These customers are adjusting flexibly to meet these new demands, while keeping their employees safe.
Utilities Responding with Resilience to Pandemic
Mr. Byrne believes that GE Digital’s utility customers best poised to respond to the pandemic are those that have deployed the company’s software solutions designed to enhance resilience to storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Resilience helps ensure that, if demand changes or people need to be in different places, systems are in place to mobilize workers to be highly effective regardless of location. Resilience requires building in preplanning and flexibility to enable utility’s organization to remain compliant and secure. This applies equally to whether the organization is responding to a disruptive pandemic or a weather emergency.
Software Keeps Employees Safe and Operations Running
According to Mr. Byrne, many of GE Digital’s customers are thinking about how they can extend the value of their software to keep employees safe and operations running. They are using GE Digital’s software solutions to help operate critical assets as well as analyze and optimize operations centers on the factory floor. These customers are now figuring out how to further virtualize their operations so key people can manage the supply chain and operate critical assets effectively from any location, including their homes. But these remote and collaboration software tools must be designed specifically for industrial applications and to operate critical infrastructure both remotely and securely. GE Digital has responded by providing free remote licenses for many of its software solutions. These have been well received by its customers.
Using Digital Technologies for Secure, Resilient Supply Chains
He pointed out that the pandemic presented most GE Digital customers with supply chain issues that created tremendous strains on their businesses. These included not being able to access needed materials or adequately respond to the rapidly changing demand signals from the market. These customers needed real-time visibility of their delivery networks, scheduling systems, and inventory positions. GE Digital is responding with solutions that provide real-time visibility across their customers’ supply chain networks. This provides a complete enterprise view of their respective market demands so they can plan their incoming material flow accordingly. This is especially helpful for customers that have the additional challenges of operating in many separate supply chain silos due to their growth via acquisitions.
These solutions leverage manufacturing data, cloud, and other GE Digital software tools to provide a more holistic, integrated view of the supply chain. This enables users to see bottlenecks in real time which, for many customers, is critical to make their systems more resilient. Mr. Byrne believes these customers will be more effective and better under-stand what the supply chain requirements will be, as well as the timing of those requirements. Besides manufacturing, GE Digital’s customers in power generation, oil & gas, and electric grids also require an enterprise view of supply and demand to be more resilient and better focus on the critical bottlenecks. As the company’s customers stabilize their businesses, this is a critical time for them to be able to both understand and control all their underlying supply and demand profiles to increase resilience, both today and into the future.
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Keywords: Digital Transformation, COVID-19, Pandemic, Remote Operations, IT, OT, Supply Chain, Collaboration, Manufacturing, Utilities, Power Generation, ARC Advisory Group.