Driving the Digital Age of Manufacturing ─ GE Keynote at SEMI’s ASMC 2016

SEMI ASMC Day 2 Report: Driving the Digital Age of Manufacturing ─ GE Keynote at SEMI’s ASMC 2016

 By Jonathan Davis, global VP, Industry Advocacy, SEMI

The opening keynote on the second day of the SEMI Advanced Semiconductor Manufacturing Conference (ASMC 2016) continued to emphasize transformations occurring in manufacturing industries.

Christine Furstoss, GE’s Global Research VP and technical director of Manufacturing & Materials Technologies, presented at the SEMI conference this week in Saratoga Springs and she described the motivations and implications of the new digital age of manufacturing.
A 27-year GE veteran, Furstoss leads 600 researchers at Global Research and is responsible for working internally and with strategic partners to develop and implement new process and material developments for products, manufacturing and services.  She said that ability to collect, analyze, integrate information will change how every single industry looks at in manufacturing and growth of the business. She said that GE now describes itself as a digital industrial company.
The digital age will provide manufacturing insights that will save money and transform how work is accomplished across supply chains.  It will be disruptive to current factory flows – but will lead to unprecedented quality, efficiency and speed in manufacturing.  It also promises to cut new product introduction times by half.
GE is promoting the concept of the “Brilliant Factory,” which embodied continuous learning and the concept that manufacturing is not a separate activity, rather part of a system.  Furstoss cited GE’s “overnight” transition from the production of filament to LED lights as an example of the rapid response to customer and regulatory requirements.  Furstoss says that GE has been on transformative journey for just the past 2-3 years, and that the possibilities are just now being defined.  However, what she describes as the collision of the physical and digital work will revolutionize manufacturing.  It’s happening now because the tools are becoming available as is the ability to be more adaptive. She said that information has always been vital, but the ability to get it faster in harsher environments and to couple it with real time optimization will transform all manufacturing. As a result, she expects GE to produce more new products in the next four years than they have in the last 12 years. 
“Automation is more than just robotics,” Furstoss said.  “It’s about the creation of closed loop control and managing variants – which is what manufacturing is all about.” The greatest value of the physical/digital convergence in manufacturing occurs when the entire life-cycle of products can be tracked digitally and incorporated in a continuous feedback loop to the production designers and manufacturing engineers.
Paying homage to her audience, she said, “It all hinges on your industry.” The integration of solid state technology and heavy machinery is the prerequisite for digital manufacturing. 
Her challenge is to develop the collaborative partnerships to see the change throughout GE’s 480 factories around the world and across its vast supply chain.  “Some of our manufacturing tools have very sophisticated sensors and monitoring technologies, others barely have an on/off switch,” she said.  It is also difficult because, GE does not want to lose traditional manufacturing arts among workers, while acquiring whole new digital skills.  To this end, she said that everyone has a responsibility to think about the workforce of the future. 

The GE VP also appealed for suppliers to not fear the democratization of innovation as the new manufacturing paradigm calls for greater ecosystem interaction and information sharing.  Asked during the Q&A session about the tension between innovation and intellectual property protection that might arise from the information sharing objectives required for the highly-collaborative model she envisions, Furstoss pointed to the Digital Manufacturing Design and Innovation Institute (DMDII) which GE joined to promote the development of a “Digital Manufacturing Commons.”  The UI LABS lead federally-funded institute aims to create an open-source platform that will form a “digital thread” in manufacturing while encoding sensitive data in a way that protects intellectual assets.

Speaking to a technology more directly in the cross hairs of semiconductor manufacturing, Furstoss described GE’s participation in a public-private partnership with New York State, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and other companies to develop New York’s Silicon Carbide Corridor.  The $200 million New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium (NY-PEMC) was announced in July 2014 to accelerate the commercialization of SiC device technology and bolster the next revolution in power semiconductors. Initially, GE’s interest will be to optimize their portfolio of products that require higher efficiency and smaller packages to improve things ranging from solar energy inverters, aviation systems, to high performance controllers, power electronics, and motors. Ultimately, it may provide to the technology to external customers.

To read the ASMC Day 1 keynote report, see: IBM Keynoter Outlines Disruptive Economy of Things at SEMI’s ASMC 2016. For more information on SEMI, visit www.semi.org and follow SEMI on LinkedIn and Twitter.  The SEMI event calendar is located here: www.semi.org/en/events.

May 18, 2016