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GE Digital CEO Pat Byrne: Partners ‘Essential’ For Manufacturing

Byrne also says that partners will become more important to the industrial IoT vendor’s overall organization: ‘In the future, without going into more specifics, in order to deliver enterprise value, these partnerships are going to be more important, and we‘ll be expanding, because connecting to other systems is part of the industrial Internet of Things.’

GE Digital CEO Pat Byrne said partners are “essential” for the industrial IoT vendor’s manufacturing business, and they will become increasingly important for the overall organization over time.

With the San Ramon, Calif.-based software vendor now organized into business units for manufacturing, utilities, oil and gas, power generation and, more recently, aviation, the company doesn’t always look to partners to sell its vertically focused solutions across the board.

[Related: Why IoT Vendors Are Investing In Consulting, Systems Integration]

For GE Digital’s manufacturing solutions, which includes the company’s Proficy manufacturing execution systems applications, partners are the primary driver of business.

“In our manufacturing business, it’s essential. It is primarily a partner-driven go-to-market strategy that we use,” Byrne said in a recent interview with CRN. “We have partners that are go-to-market partners. We also have partners that provide adjacent solutions that combine with ours to create a more complete solution with customers.”

However, for GE Digital’s Asset Performance Management solutions for power generation and oil and gas, the company largely goes to market directly while relying on “critical partners in vertical markets” that the company doesn’t focus on, like metals and mining, according to Byrne. The company’s utilities business mostly relies on a direct sales force as well.

But Byrne indicated that GE Digital’s overall partner strategy could change soon.

“In the future, without going into more specifics, in order to deliver enterprise value, these partnerships are going to be more important, and we’ll be expanding, because connecting to other systems is part of the industrial Internet of Things,” he said.

Jim Gillespie, CEO of GrayMatter, a Warrendale, Pa.-based GE Digital partner that has large manufacturing customers like Procter & Gamble and PepsiCo, said the partnership with GE Digital has been going great as customers appreciate Byrne’s “deep knowledge and commitment.”

That commitment is evident in the fact that Byrne has participated in more than a dozen customer meetings with GrayMatter, according to Gillespie.

“The top-to-top meetings that I’ve participated in with him has just been great. The clients really respond to him. And he’s a pretty good, genuine guy,” he said. “So I think both the clients and I come out of those meetings feeling that he’s committed to the manufacturing space, the clients and the channel, so it’s hard to argue with stuff like that.”

Byrne has also built a “strong” leadership team for GE Digital’s manufacturing group that is very focused on customer success, Gillespie said. That team includes Paul Epperson, a channel director who was promoted to chief commercial officer for the Americas in March, and Jeff Bartoletti, a longtime GE employee who is now vice president of global customer support.

What has also made the GE Digital partnership fruitful is the fact that the vendor has maintained a strong product roadmap and communication with customers and partners, according to Gillespie.

“They’ve put really good product roadmaps in place and are executing on them and clearly communicating that out to the client base,” he said. “The roadmaps are based on customer feedback and what people are wanting them to focus on building.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has impacted a variety of industries, Gillespie said GrayMatter has been lucky because it services many companies and organizations whose operations are deemed essential, from food and beverage companies to wastewater management facilities.

Many of GE Digital’s products are helping GrayMatter’s customers with a “continuing desire to do more with less,” according to Gillespie. That includes a new product that launched last year called the Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud, which consolidates manufacturing data in the cloud and prepares it for analytics applications, like site-to-site comparisons.

Manufacturing Data Cloud helps customers reduce the amount of data storage they need to do locally, but more importantly, Gillespie said, it helps them achieve the business outcomes they’re looking for.

“Figuring out how to connect all of those assets of interest and getting the data to the right people to make better decisions to get rid of the waste, it’s really what people want to pay for,” he said.

To help customers with social distancing requirements and other restrictions prompted by the pandemic, GE Digital and GrayMatter worked together to create a remote access package for customers who need access to SCADA control systems.

“Some people had their systems air-gapped, and you can’t air-gap and work remotely at the same time. We’ve been helping people sort through that,” Gillespie said.

Overall, Gillespie said, he’s been impressed with the pragmatic approach Byrne has brought to GE Digital, because industrial IoT is ultimately about delivering value for customers.

“I think we’re a fan of the pragmatic sort of customer-focused approach. And I think that’s always a win-the-day,” he said.

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