March 2017 | Richard Young

Shedding light on heat

An innovative system designed by Tata Consultancy Services uses smart lighting and the industrial internet to help General Electric streamline a major production line and reduce costly errors

A breakthrough approach to the use of light-based sensors at a General Electric (GE) heavy manufacturing plant provides a perfect example of how digital technology is revolutionising manufacturing.

Tata Consultancy Services is helping to reduce costly errors in GE Power's production of gas-turbine rotors

Greenville, South Carolina, had a problem. It makes and assembles huge metal components for turbines, but, as they go through various stages of fabrication, they need to cool. Attempting to move these huge parts into the next phase on the production line before they are at the right temperature can result in disaster.

For example, rotor stacking is a key process and demands extremely high levels of precision. If rotor wheels are stacked incorrectly due to differences in surface temperature, the whole unit will require reassembly, incurring steep additional costs and two to three weeks of shipment delays.

That's where Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) comes in. TCS developed an innovative solution to connect intelligent LEDs in the production line to GE's Predix operating system, providing critical analytics to save significant time and costs in the manufacturing process.

By automatically collecting data on ambient room and rotor surface temperatures, the digital solution analyses the temperature at various points on the metal turbine parts as they are assembled and cooled, allowing operators to know when the next operation can be performed. This reduces waiting times between operations and improves quality monitoring. It should reduce costs and energy consumption too.

The platform is built using smart LED fixtures from Current (another GE business), integrated with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and any physical object present, transmitting the data to an Intel Atom-based gateway, where the information is streamed to the Predix cloud.

'This demonstrates the power of three industry leaders leveraging their respective best-in-class capabilities to transform the manufacturing industry,' said Denzil Samuels, global head of channels, alliances, business development and ventures at GE Digital.

This article first appeared in issue 5 of Perspective, the magazine for Tata in Europe. Read the ebook here