New GE, Cisco firm to aid factory-to-office networks

GE Industrial Systems (Plainville, Conn.) and Cisco Systems (San Jose, Calif.) announced June 6 that they've formed a new company, GE Cisco Industrial Networks, to assess, design, and build network infrastructures for plant floor and industrial environments. The partners say these infrastructures will aid enterprise-wide communications essential to real-time decisio...


GE Industrial Systems (Plainville, Conn.) and Cisco Systems (San Jose, Calif.) announced June 6 that they've formed a new company, GE Cisco Industrial Networks, to assess, design, and build network infrastructures for plant floor and industrial environments. The partners say these infrastructures will aid enterprise-wide communications essential to real-time decision making, e-business, and increased productivity.

GE Cisco Industrial Networks (Charlottesville, Va.—also the home of GE Fanuc) will use Ethernet open standard network infrastructure to bridge gaps in factory floor/enterprise information. The partners say benefits Ethernet traditionally brings to office networks—including low installation and maintenance costs, as well as seamless integration with the Internet—will now be available to the factory without compromising manufacturing productivity.

Technically an 80% GE-owned, 20% Cisco-owned joint venture, GE Cisco's location in Charlottesville means it will likely draw on some of GE Fanuc's personnel. Core executive, engineering, and administrative staffers are already in place, and the 50-employee start up company is expected increase hiring as needed. Though financial terms of the joint venture weren't disclosed, GE Industrial Systems expects the new company to reach $100 million in sales in three to five years, while its Ethernet-in-plant market grows to $3 billion by 2003.

"The benefits of communicating real-time plant floor data over Ethernet and uniting it with the office over one enterprise-wide backbone are enormous,'' says Jeff Pompeo, GE Cisco Industrial Networks' president and ceo. "Users have rapid access to data and can better exploit applications, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), remote monitoring, and vendor-managed inventory (VMI) via a standard Internet browser. Additionally, machining and manufacturing cells, each with multiple control devices, can be connected via one open infrastructure rather than several islands of proprietary networks, which allows factory floor communication and improves resource management.

"Installing, maintaining, and managing one type of network throughout the enterprise is also substantially less expensive than supporting several networks. As a result, return on investment is realized more quickly. The enterprise-wide Ethernet network helps make companies more productive by virtually eliminating network downtime, bottlenecks, and crashes for guaranteed data availability."

GE Fanuc buys DataViews

In other news, GE Fanuc Automation Inc. (Charlottesville, Va.) announced June 19 that it has acquired the assets of DataViews Corp. (Northampton, Mass), a privately held subsidiary of Dynatech Corp. (Burlington, Mass.). Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

DataViews designs and manufactures software that allows factory automation equipment users to customize the way they view and access information. These open graphical interface software development tools are available for Windows-, Unix, Linux-, and Web-based environments. The acquisition will further expand GE Fanuc's line of industrial automation software by allowing users to create their own custom operator interface packages.

"DataViews has taken an open, scalable approach to the development of reusable, dynamic data visualization components," says Kevin Roach, GE Fanuc's Software Business vp. "The company complements GE Fanuc's 'open solutions' approach to industrial automation. The technology is an excellent fit with our existing products and services."

DataViews has approximately 30,000 customer installations worldwide. Applications built with DataViews products can be deployed as stand-alone, client-server, or Web-based applications. DataViews-powered interfaces are used to graphically monitor and control satellites, communications gateways, power plants, factories and simulation systems.

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