- GE’s first centre for power services in Asia-Pacific aims to transform energy landscape
- Facility supports goal of cutting region’s power plant maintenance costs by up to 30%
IN A sign of how the deepening digitisation of business is progressing, even in an industry as traditional as power plants, GE Power Services has launched a Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics (M&D) Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In a world where the application of analytics to large volumes of data to extract value is being proven again and again, coupled with the onset of the Internet of Things (IoT) era where cheaper sensors and increasing computing power meets more sophisticated software, an increasing premium is also being attached to highly skilled talent.
Witness GE’s new Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics Centre (M&D) centre, its first in Asia-Pacific, which monitors more than 200 gas and steam turbines, boilers and generators in over 70 plants across 10 countries in the region.
It is manned by a grand total of eight Malaysian engineers. While the numbers will likely be expanded as GE also gears the centre for a global role, even then it won’t likely see more than 20 engineers manning it.
Pointing to his head, Anders Maltesen, general manager— Asia Pacific for GE’s Power Services says, “It’s what’s in here that counts,” signalling that the quality of talent is more important than just having the numbers.
On the choice of Malaysia as the location for its new M&D centre, Maltesen highlights the multiculturalism of the talent pool, its diverse skill set within the power industry with engineering expertise in coal, hydro and gas-powered plants and its central location within Asia. “If we need to put someone in front of a customer, we can do so within a few hours flight time.”
But an acquisition also played a hand.
GE’s power business in Malaysia was strengthened in Nov 2015 with the acquisition of French-based energy company Alstom’s power assets in a US$9.5 billion deal. At the time, Malaysia was already a key base for Alstom which had built up a strong team trained in using remote monitoring and diagnostics.
Add to that, GE had its biggest Asia Pacific engineering team based in KL with 30% of its 250-strong engineering team based in the Malaysian capital.
With decisions to locate such sophisticated remote monitoring centres based on a mixture of cost and talent, Maltesen emphasises that Malaysia posseses the right mix of the two. And it goes beyond the power sector. “There was no oil and gas remote centre here but we established a global centre because of what Malaysia brings,” he says.
Numbers that matter
But numbers are important and in this case, through its Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics Centre, GE can talk about revenue and time where less plant down time incurred for maintenance by GE’s customers enables them to keep their plants running longer, thereby earning revenue.
This GE is able to deliver through real time monitoring and diagnostics of the plants where anomalies can be predicted before customers are even aware of them and where costly maintenance is based on actual needs and not by schedule.
For instance, thanks to sensors in the blades of its turbines, GE was able to warn a customer in Sabah of a crack in its blade and the potential of a plant shutdown if the situation was not proactively handled.
“As a result, we were able to help them schedule a shut down and get the blade in question replaced with the plant back up and running within 10 days,” said Maltesen.
Gone undetected, the crack in the blade could have caused a plant shutdown that could have resulted in months of downtime – not to mention reputational loss from the bad press and angry customers.
What’s interesting about the new M&D facility, which supports GE’s Fleet360 platform (which in turn sits on GE’s cloud based industrial internet platform, Predix) of customised plant solutions, is that it helps customers regardless of whether their power generation equipment is supplied by GE or another original equipment manufacturer (OEM).
The bottom-line is that the enhanced capabilities from real-time data collection and efficient problem-solving guidance, potentially can help reduce maintenance costs by up to 30% for its customers, says GE.
The team manning the facility also has access to physics-based, proprietary algorithms developed by the global Monitoring and Diagnostics team to provide early warnings of more than 180 potential failure mechanisms.
As Maltesen points out, “This is just the beginning. The M&D centre is part of our continued commitment to drive digital transformation in today’s energy landscape, and to develop better services and solutions for our customers.”
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