Thanks to analytics software and the Internet of Things, we're opening a new round in the never-ending bout of man vs. machine.

During a panel discussion this week at a General Electric Industrial Internet event (GE's name for the Internet of Things), the insight that got the most heads nodding came from Jay Neidermeyer, CIO of GE Aviation's supply chain and manufacturing operations.

Neidermeyer was describing GE Aviation's early efforts to use predictive analytics to anticipate when a CNC machine used to make airplane engine parts is about to break down, so that staff can do preventive maintenance and avoid delaying the delivery of a finished engine. On many factory floors, he noted, "there's the person who can predict the outage based on hearing the rattle." Neidermeyer said:

"It's hard to convince that person that this computer might actually have some insight that he or she doesn't. We're still kind of learning our way through that. I think our strategy is pretty simple -- let's find simple ways to demonstrate success. And by the way, maybe not even taking action on them yet. Just have the signals in place so you can say, 'I think something might be coming. Let's see if it's reality,' and let people observe an outcome together. The theory is that if some of these things work, it's going to start showing itself that the insight you gain from these methods is as good or frankly better than that person -- than the 'machine whisperer.'"

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