Name Change, Product Roadmap Highlight GE Fanuc User Conference

GE Fanuc Automation becomes GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms, joins the GE Embedded Systems division and outlines software strategy at its annual user conference.

Changing a company name is a big decision, and usually follows changes in the company or in the market—or both. In the case of GE Fanuc Automation substituting “Intelligent Platforms” for “Automation” in its moniker, the reasons are a little of both.  

The Charlottesville, Va.-based supplier unveiled the name change at its annual user conference Oct. 23-25 in St. Louis. Maryrose Sylvester, president and chief executive officer, told Automation World that the new name reflects what the company’s customers have come to expect. No longer merely a product or component supplier, GE Fanuc has become a supplier of technology platforms for automation, following a long series of acquisitions in both the embedded computing and software markets. 

Not only that, but the company is now part of a new division within General Electric Co.—GE Enterprise Solutions—headed by none other than former GE Fanuc Chief Executive Officer Charlene Begley. Assembling a number of other GE industrial companies such as GE Sensing, Begley intends to turn the division into a cohesive business. When evaluated in total, the division is a significant automation player. 

Decision-making engine

 During private meetings with editors at the conference, executives from GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms and from software giant Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash., touted their partnership, and a process dubbed “Transformational Innovation.” GE Fanuc is developing a new software platform for the future built upon Microsoft’s Workflow Foundation and Communications Foundation technologies. A new platform called “Proficy Platform” and a new product, “Proficy Workflow” are expected to be released in the first quarter of 2008. The application is a user-configurable decision-making engine. Users can define a process “workflow” comprised of a number of steps with a logical execution path within the software application. 

ARC Advisory Group Inc.’s Research Director Craig Resnick used the forum available at the conference to announce a new manufacturing model developed by the Dedham, Mass., analyst firm’s analysts to describe the manufacturing software space. Collaborative Production Systems (CPS) provides a holistic vision for how companies view their manufacturing and production operations, and how those operations can best collaborate with the rest of the enterprise according to Resnick.  

Dubbed a “next generation” model that helps combine ARC’s Collaborative Process Automation Systems (CPAS) and Operations Management models, the Collaborative Production System model outlines not only systems infrastructure, but also the requirements, functions, people and processes needed for manufacturers to achieve operational excellence. GE Fanuc stated in the press conference that it supports the new definition, and that, in fact, its products fit within the definition. 

Going wireless 

Also at the conference, the company announced its TranSphere Wireless communications products. This offering includes extended range Internet protocol (IP) networking, wireless IP/Ethernet connectivity, and Ethernet and serial communications radio modem solutions. Complementary products also introduced include TranSphere Wireless remote input/output (I/O) modules for analog and discrete I/O signals. 

In another announcement, GE Fanuc announced a version of its iFix 4.5 human machine interface / supervisory control and data acquisition (HMI/SCADA) application targeted to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This new version of the visualization product provides a variety of OEM-specific features, including the ability to build OEM brand awareness with their customers. By building their own brand, OEMs are also building customer loyalty and product recognition in their specific marketplace, GE Fanuc said. 

In another announcement, the company said that VisiconX, an enterprise-wide analytical tool designed orginally for Proficy HMI/SCADA-iFix, is now also available for Proficy HMI/SCADA Cimplicity. VisiconX enables users to obtain and group data from any relational database in an operation and turn it into information that will be valuable to everyone in the organization. Also announced was VersaMax MicroMotion, a two-axis module, allowing users to integrate motion control, servos or steppers, and low-end control into a package from one vendor. It can be integrated with the VersaMax Micro controller, QuickPanel Operator Interface Controller or in standalone mode, providing a flexible motion solution at an economical cost.

GE Fanuc Intelligent Platforms
www.gefanuc.com

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