Managing Multiple Systems to Run the Packaging Industry

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The consumer goods packaging industry accounts for more than $2 trillion dollars in annual revenue and is spread across a wide range of applications.  From fast food containers, to paperboard and plastic containers of any shape and size, to molded fiber flatware, these are the products that people worldwide use on a daily basis.

The systems used to run this industry are as varied as the companies that manufacture them.  When a global leader in consumer goods packaging and molded fiber products wanted to overhaul their factory information systems and industrial controls with a consistent system that could be deployed across their 13 facilities in North and South America, they called on PREMIER System Integrators.

Established in 1991, PREMIER System Integrators has grown to be a multifaceted organization specializing in creating superior solutions for manufacturing environments in need of complex system integration to keep them at the forefront of their industry.  By consistently providing excellence in industrial controls, they continue to grow and flourish due to their ability to create efficient systems for complicated deployments.

Before designing a new state-of-the-art system for their client, PREMIER had to determine what system architectures were currently in place at the three target facilities. They determined that all three had slightly different systems, one being a Valmet DCS system, one a ProcessLogix-DCS System and the last was a more classic RS View32 HMI with Control Logix.  The OS on the Valmet was proprietary with thick clients, the OS for the HMIs were all Windows 2000 with thick clients, and the RSView32 systems were using Windows XP.

PREMIER was asked by the client to help provide justification for the control system upgrades. The ProcessLogix system was discontinued so the system was at end of life, as was the Valmet system. Although the controls in the third facility weren’t obsolete, the client wanted the same look and feel across all three facilities to simplify operations and maintenance.

Once the projects were approved, PREMIER System Integrators got to work designing and deploying the most agile and advanced system they could create.  After much consideration, they decided on a multi-tiered system using a combination of the most recent releases from Rockwell, VMware, and ThinManager.  All 3 facilities now have Rockwell PAx Solution using ControlLogix for the control layer. The HMI layer is FactoryTalk View SE, and the clients are being managed with ThinManager.  There were existing fiber KVM switches that were replaced with ThinManager ready thin clients allowing reuse of the fiber optic cable at the third location.  In all cases they are using redundant FactoryTalk ViewSE HMI servers with OSI PI as the historian.  They all have three physical machines with virtually hosted OSs and two redundant FactoryTalk View SE servers that are also ThinManager servers.  They can RDP into that infrastructure and have access to an Asset Center server, which is how they get to the equipment for facility to facility corporate remote support.

With so many software choices between their three HMIs, they decided to use parts of each to maximize efficiency.  From the ThinManager Platform, PREMIER decided to use the MultiMonitor function and Touch Screen Support to provide operators with the ability to watch more than one process at a time.   They also relied heavily on Shadowing throughout the early phases of development and after initial deployment because they had the ability to VPN into their sites remotely.  They saw the value in being able to view an operator’s screen to see their session in real time and even take control of their screen if needed to walk them through a process.

After such a massive undertaking, we asked Larry Grate of PREMIER what his thoughts were about ThinManager now.  “From an ease of maintenance and support perspective, going with a configured ThinManager ready thin client solution makes it a lot easier to replace a client in the middle of the night when one fails.  Maintenance and support were really the driving force behind our decision to use the ThinManager solution for this deployment.  Once it was up and running, the customer immediately saw the value and versatility of the product.  They are now looking at incorporating additional ThinManager Platform features like IP camera support in future projects.  We had a little resistance to putting ThinManager in until we dropped in that first client.  It took them having a difficult situation that we were able to get them out of using ThinManager to make them believers.  They had a thick client failure and didn’t have a quick way to get another one in.  In order to get them back up and running it was easier for us to get a ThinManager thin client installed rather than trying to swap out the thick client.  It was a win/win situation for them once we had them back up and running because they got to see ThinManager in action.  They are now retooling their entire facility to ThinManager.”

Regardless of the industry or the system architecture, the ThinManager Platform makes system management more efficient.

Tom Jordan

V.P. of Marketing - Automation Control Products