General Motors Standardizes on EtherNet/IP

Suppliers given until Jan. 1 2007 to support standard or lose the business


General Motors Corp. (GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, standardized on EtherNet/IP for its vehicle manufacturing control systems. The EtherNet/IP network will provide real-time communication between GM machine controllers, robots, and process control equipment, as well as provide information to higher-level business systems.

Suppliers to more than 60 GM factories located in Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America, and the Middle East have until Jan. 1, 2007 to make their products EtherNet/IP-compatible. EtherNet/IP is administered by the Open DeviceNet Vendors Assn. (ODVA), and is based on the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP), the underlying technology in EtherNet/IP, DeviceNet, and ControlNet.

"To meet our needs, we wanted an Ethernet implementation that is open, readily available, capable of real-time data delivery, and uses standard infrastructure devices," said Gary Workman, staff development engineer at GM. "The EtherNet/IP networking solution meets these criteria." The network protocol will support manufacturing applications in body, paint, assembly, and metal fabrication.

Workman foresees major benefits from the decision. "We expect to achieve lower operating cost and leverage our engineering resources by sharing information system applications," said Workman. "We'll also incorporate safety networks into our CIP-based environment by using CIP Safety and EtherNet/IP Safety as they become available."

Introduced in early 2000, EtherNet/IP is based on commercial off-the-shelf Ethernet (IEEE 802.3) and the TCP/IP suite. EtherNet/IP also leverages standard User Datagram Protocol/Internet Protocol (UDP/IP, part of the TCP/IP suite) transport services, which provides higher performance and multicast functionality for real-time messaging. Because it leverages both TCP/IP and UDP/IP protocols, GM (and other manufacturers) can use EtherNet/IP for both information and control applications.

EtherNet/IP also integrates easily with DeviceNet, GM's preferred device-level network in North America. Workman says GM standardized on the networks to achieve a high level of consistency in designing and operating its assembly plants, regardless of the brand of products used.

EtherNet/IP uses the Common Industrial Protocol (CIP) as its upper-layer protocol and object model. "This is a proven, open protocol that offers users numerous benefits including ease of configuration, rapid product and network integration, and multivendor interoperability," said ODVA executive director Katherine Voss. "CIP also allows users like GM to seamlessly transport data from the factory floor to enterprise systems without specialized devices or software."

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