GE: connecting Canadian manufacturing
Earlier this year, the province of Ontario partnered with General Electric Canada to provide the company with a $20.5 million grant, aiding to fund the new Brilliant Factory in Welland.
The facility will be one of the most technologically advanced of its kind in the world, bringing a plethora of economic opportunities to the local area. It will create a fully-integrated industrial Internet of Things approach to manufacturing, and as such, further enhance Ontario’s status as a growing presence in the world of technology.
Business Review USA & Canada spoke with Elyse Allan, CEO of GE Canada, and Kim Warburton, Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs, about the new Welland factory and what it means both for GE and for Ontario.
“We broke ground in August this year,” Allan says, “and expect the factory to open early 2018. The first business to be located in the multimodal facility is GE Power, which will make reciprocating gas engines. The plant will also manufacture components for GE transportation diesel locomotive engines.”
GE has been in Canada since 1892, when iconic inventor Thomas Edison founded a factory in Peterborough, and it has maintained a presence ever since. Still, the Welland factory is a huge deal for Ontario and the nation itself, as Warburton explains: “We looked at many locations, but we settled in Ontario for proximity to the border and access to quality labor. There aren’t a lot of stories about big business in Canada, but this is a message of hope for the manufacturing sector in this country. When you’re part of a multinational, you fight every day for your countries because there’s lots of voices around the table, and many equally compelling reasons to go elsewhere. One of the big drivers is the Economic Development Corporation that exists in Canada, with which we have a great relationship.”
“The province is well located for export to reach our global customers,” adds Allan, “and has the incredible talent we need for our advanced facility.”
The work that GE will do in Canada is described by Warburton as “whole-world digital,” meaning an industrial level of IoT. “Advanced manufacturing now is about taking a look at existing factories and saying ‘how can we be better by using both digital and lean manufacturing?’, and so in Welland we’re building bigger and better efficiency through digitization.”
GE expects that the Brilliant Factory will swiftly allow production to run around 30 percent faster than it currently does, and that it will be at least 10 percent more productive. The Welland Plant is likely to remain one of the top 10 in the world, despite the fact that it will eventually be competing against at least two hundred others worldwide.
The facility will run 3D model-based simulations to help optimize manufacturing, and real-time analytics to ensure GE is able to predict and prevent unplanned downtime. “If you can predict what’s happening with your machine before it occurs, you can fix it in advance,” Warburton says. “3D manufacturing has become very advanced; you couldn’t do any of this five or 10 years ago. Down the line we’ll undoubtedly be using virtual reality in some factories. All these new things are now being brought into facilities which make them more viable than ever before.”
The Brilliant Factory production model, GE says, has evolved quite naturally to a point where it is among the most advanced in the world. “Just think about consumer internet 10 years ago – we’re now at the beginning stage of industrial internet, which is the next phase,” Warburton explains. “It’s really quite incredible when you think of the millions of machines and pieces of equipment that are now connected via the industrial internet, and that allows them all to talk to each other. You couldn’t do that not long ago.”
One of the most exciting prospects for Ontario as it helps to fund GE is the economic impact. The province is investing over $2 billion across a 10 year period through the Jobs and Prosperity Fund to bring in big business and create job opportunities; companies which are settling in Ontario to manufacture include Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, IBM, Google, and Huawei.
“Our aspiration is that Welland’s Brilliant Factory becomes one of the top GE factories in the world for advanced manufacturing,” Allan says, “and we look forward to working with the City of Welland to create jobs and economic growth.”
“Because of digitization and the tools involved in achieving it, you can do things more efficiently which puts a whole new face on traditional manufacturing,” Warburton adds. “Now we can have skilled workers doing skilled tasks. That’s the future of manufacturing, and it’s good news for Ontario.
“Welland has been a depressed area economically, and this building is a boost to the community. Others will look to Welland and hopefully choose to move there, helping the economy further. It’s a domino effect. We’re sourcing as much labor as possible from Welland itself, which we’ll be hiring for in 2017 ready to open the factory in 2018.”
In the words of Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, “GE’s decision to invest in Welland sends a clear message that our province has a lot to offer”; the project is a mutually advantageous strategic move which will benefit both the province and the technology giant immensely."
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Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.