BMA15: How GE Transformed its 100-Year-Old Transportation Business

GE Uses Data and Analytics to Make Locomotive Engines Smarter

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Showcasing the power of data and analytics -- a key theme at BMA15 -- speakers from GE Transportation discussed how they are making over the 100-year-old business that provides technology for train engines and locomotives.

(from l.) Kristi Lundgren; moderator Steve Liguori; Russell Stokes
(from l.) Kristi Lundgren; moderator Steve Liguori; Russell Stokes Credit:

"We are going through an exciting transformation," said Russell Stokes, president-CEO of GE Transportation. "Our business is focusing on how to develop the next better engine, whether that is helping to reduce emissions by 70% or helping customers run their networks better."

"Increasingly, we are paying attention to our ability to improve the processing and computing ability to make engines smarter," he said.

Mr. Stokes said that in doing research with its customers, GE learned that the needs of its target audience were changing, both in terms of who the buyers are and what they need. "We were finding that our customers wanted to see more and more solutions, not just pure products," he said. "They wanted connected solutions to help them create value across their entire ecosystem."

He noted that GE provides solutions for specific transportation needs, such as train dispatching, network planning and maintenance. "We realized each solution was disparate -- we had to talk to different people, with a different value proposition and a different sales approach," Mr. Stokes said. "We had to figure out a way to make sure our solutions weren't disconnected."

Working with its Industrial Internet division, which connects hardware, software and data to provide solutions for customers, GE Transportation created a cloud-based analytics system called Predix, which railroad operators can use to optimize the performance of locomotives, as well as improve supply-chain operations and other elements of their ecosystem. "This really enables big data analytics at the machine level," Mr. Stokes said.

GE also created a cloud-based interactive software tool to demonstrate the Predix system. "We are using cutting-edge software to tell the story," said Kristi Lundren, marketing leader at GE Transportation, who co-presented with Mr. Stokes.

The second big challenge GE had was reaching a changing audience. "We were used to selling to the chief mechanical officer -- he had been our go-to guy," Ms. Lundgren said. "Now, we are talking to the CIO. What do we say to him? It was a bit of a marketing challenge."

GE worked with Render, a Chicago-based product marketing company, to develop value propositions around buyer personas. "We were able to create outcomes tailored to the right audience, using today's language," Ms. Lundgren said. "It's really tempting, especially in an established industry and in a legacy industry, to do things like you have always done them. We needed an entirely new way to sell this."

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