Digital technology drives changes in manufacturing

Amid the huge international debate about industrial policy, don’t overlook rapidly changing digital technology as the key to success in manufacturing.

That’s a key point from Bill Ruh, who recently was named CEO of Digital at Lendlease, a multinational construction, property and infrastructure company. Ruh, who was CEO of GE Digital for nearly eight years, will be the speaker Wednesday night at the 40th South Florida Manufacturers Association Recognition of Excellence Banquet.

While GE’s issues have received plenty of media attention, Ruh’s division was a shining star. Its revenue increased from $2 billion to $5 billion over a six-year period.

“Anybody doing manufacturing is going to find themselves in a time of change drive by digital,” Ruh said in a telephone conversation from Sydney, Australia, where Lendlease is headquartered. “Digital technology will play a bigger and bigger role in order to compete. At the same time, it will allow people to compete better on an international and global level.”

Manufacturing is shifting from an era that emphasizes cheap labor and transporting goods to being more efficient, insightful and closer to customers. Software, robotics, drones, data analysis and artificial intelligence are part of the recipe for success.

Workers may need more skills in science, technology, engineering and math, not necessarily with college degrees, to interact with technology, Ruh says.

Robotics in the past was driven by electronics and hardware, but now it is being driven by  more flexible software, which allows performance of new tasks. The software is more complex for the vendors to produce, but easier for the manufacturers to utlilize. Ruh expects prices for robotics to drop dramatically while the tasks they can do increases substantially. Developments in software make processes such as 3D printing much more interesting to him.

At GE, Ruh worked with former CEO Jeff Immelt on a strategy that would collect information from machines and their operators and then apply analytics. The analytics were able to see patterns of behavior and predict outcomes that couldn’t be seen before. For example, it could predict when a machine would need repair before its breakdown shut down an assembly line. Shutting down an assembly line creates huge costs for manufacturers.

The concept is to create a “digital twin” with software that mirrors and analyzes what’s happening to the products sold by a manufacturer.

In the consumer world, Tesla is able to get information about its cars and update their software with new features, Ruh notes. The Apple Watch is starting to create a digital twin of its users by offering warnings of things like abnormally high heart beats.

The digital twin technology can boost aftermarket services for manufacturers, Ruh says. Customers love it when vendors can monitor their equipment and then improve it. In the future, manufacturers who can’t offer this service could find themselves in trouble when the competition does.









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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.