Huffman Engineering expands validated system with thin client technology

The modern industrial enterprise is complex. Many contemporary manufacturers not only face the challenges that come with automation and ensuring that facilities remain secure, but they must also manage very strict validation procedures. While downtime can negatively affect any type of installation, a validated installation requires even more effort when new equipment is commissioned, or existing equipment must be updated or replaced.

Fortunately, companies like Huffman Engineering have built their business around providing innovative solutions for their customers’ validated environments. We recently spoke with Keith Mandachit, engineering manager at Huffman. Keith shared some insights into a recent project Huffman completed for a global pharmaceutical manufacturer. [...]

125-Year-Old Dairy Plant Pivots to the Next Century with Thin Client Technology

When one of Canada’s oldest operating dairy facilities needed to update their aging facility, they partnered with PID Engineering to create a modern visualization solution.

“Our customer needed to upgrade their outdated server running obsolete HMI software. This was putting their factory at greater risk of unreliability and downtime without support,” stated Jonah Renouf from PID. “We installed a Stratus Server and wanted to utilize ThinManager® to manage the client-based delivery system for HMI production screens throughout the plant.” [...]

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System Integrator Uses Thin Client Technology to Centralize Control of Disparate Machines and Systems

Growth, for any business, is always a good thing. But even good things have challenges. When a growing food and beverage customer found that too many new machines combined with their existing controls system were making work harder, they called on Everworks, Inc. to streamline  their facility.

The customer had acquired multiple machines and new automation equipment as part of their growth strategy. Each new machine came with an OEM solution that is typically a stand-alone FactoryTalk View ME PanelView or SE Local Station. The SE instances ran on industrial computers that required continuous updates and expensive maintenance. What the customer needed was a strategy to integrate 4 OEM systems with their existing native controls to create one modern, fully automated, large food processing line. [...]

Newly designed central control room

System Integrator Uses Thin Client Technology to Improve Visualization for International Lime Supplier

Singleton Birch Ltd is the UK’s leading independent lime supplier with a worldwide customer base. The product range includes quicklime, hydrated lime, natural hydraulic lime, graded chalk, aggregates and other specialist products and services. 

Over the last few years, Singleton Birch has worked to optimize production operations. They have moved from a localized, plant-based approach to a centralized control room scenario with field-based operators communicating directly with the CCR (Central Control Room). [...]

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Concept Systems Deploys a Modern Controls Solution for a Modern Materials Maker

When it came time for a large, northwestern U.S. timber manufacturer to choose a controls solution for a new facility, they reached out to their partners at Concept Systems. The new facility would be creating products for a growing industry—multi-story, timber-built structures.

Most of us think concrete and steel when we envision how taller buildings are designed and erected. However, modern engineered timber products have many advantages over their concrete and steel counterparts. Faster time to completion and more environmentally sustainable raw materials are just a few. These modern beams also respond better in a fire as they don’t buckle under the heat and burn very slow, allowing building occupants more time to safely exit if a fire event were to occur. [...]

System Integrator Uses ThinManager to Help Create a New Platform for Benchtop and Small-Scale Bioreactor Users

System Integrators work hard. Projects usually take longer than expected as the scope stretches to meet the customer’s expectations. Every project has unique challenges. Sometimes you put in long days and weekend work to make sure everything gets done.

Because of these things and much more, successful SIs learn how to work very efficiently. When a tool or system can be utilized to make projects more streamlined, SIs will seek to redeploy that tool or system on other projects to help overcome the obstacles mentioned above.

In the course of providing solutions to customers, Panacea Technologies not only found a great technology to improve their customer’s computing, they also found a way to create a new offering that has the potential to change the benchtop and small-scale reactor space for the better. That technology is ThinManager from Rockwell Automation.

The Challenge

The current state of the benchtop and small-scale bioreactor market allows limited interaction with the reactors. Some facilities may have hundreds of reactors that need to be controlled and monitored. The issue is that these systems often use proprietary HMIs that have rigid limitations on how many units can be connected. Currently, many operators simply have to deal with monitoring one or two bioreactors at a time from a fixed terminal.

“We once saw an operator running around with kitchen timers, paper notebooks, and a Microsoft Surface all while standing in front of the proprietary HMI,” said Will Aja of Panacea Technologies.

Besides making lab operations inefficient, these systems have no real way of controlling user access. Panacea Technologies decided they could apply ThinManager to help solve these issues. What they have developed is not only a solution, but a whole new product to offer to their pharmaceutical customers.

The Solution

Panacea knew that mobile tablets would be an excellent way to overcome many of these issues. But seeking more than just a mobile connection, Panacea also wanted to provide access to more reactors at a time.

“We envisioned a product where scientists could move freely through the lab interacting with all the Bioreactors in a lab quickly with an intelligent system that would know who had access to what based on where they were. ThinManager fit the bill perfectly here, and we are taking advantage of almost every single feature ThinManager offers.” [...]

Large International Food Manufacturer Makes Quantum Leap to Thin Client Technology

More and more industrial manufacturers are realizing the benefits of using thin client computing technology to run their modern facilities. We recently had the chance to speak with Thanh Phan from Quantum Solutions about how they used ThinManager to build out a new food production facility in the Midwest.

When one of the world’s largest food and beverage companies wanted to open a new processing plant in Davenport, Iowa, they called on their partners at Rockwell Automation to help them design and implement a modern, connected workspace.

Since the network services group from Rockwell Automation was already managing the networks for the customer, Dan Neiner, Senior Engineer for Rockwell Automation, was involved with the project from the onset. The customer wanted to implement a thin client strategy for this new facility. The old plants had used PCs, and the customer wanted to move away from the time and expense necessary to keep PCs up and running in their production environments.

Because the solution required thin clients, Dan called on his systems integrator partners at Quantum Solutions. Quantum not only had thin client experience, but they had ThinManager experience. They were chosen by the customer to lead this deployment.

Thanh Phan with Quantum Solutions knew ThinManager was the right solution for their customer. It’s the only thin client system designed specifically for industrial application delivery and management.

The customer’s new plant is very large, coming in at almost 385,000 square feet with a staff of around 475 people. It was designed to replace an existing plant that had operated for decades. Quantum’s plan for deploying ThinManager and FactoryTalk View SE consisted of 3 Remote Desktop Servers and 2 ThinManager Servers that would manage and deliver content to 48 industrial thin clients.

The servers and applications that run this ThinManager solution are driven and supported from a Rockwell Automation Integrated Data Center (IDC). This packaged solution not only runs the applications that ThinManager delivers, but it also runs the network and is securely managed by Rockwell Automation technical support professionals.

Simplicity Equals Productivity

There is more than one reason the team from Quantum chose ThinManager to deploy FTView SE to the thin clients in this plant. “All the requested functionality that our customer needed for this deployment was already integrated into ThinManager in a simple way,” stated Phan. “Other convenient features such as TermMon ActiveX, virtual keyboard and simple touchscreen calibration solidified ThinManager as the final choice.”

Phan continued, “The TermMon ActiveX provided reboot and screen calibration functionality directly from the HMI. We were able to apply a script to the reboot process that ensured the thin client logged out of the server and restarted, etc. in a specific order. This also eliminated the need for physical keyboards for calibration. When a keyboard is needed, ThinManager’s hold-time configuration allows operators easy access to a virtual keyboard. We were able to configure the virtual keyboards to persist for only 5 seconds ensuring the keyboard never got in the way of other hold events on screen.”

Safety and Security are Built-In

Safety and Security were also important aspects of this food and beverage deployment. In addition to the built-in security of thin client hardware, Quantum deployed two of ThinManager’s most powerful features—AppLink and Shadowing.

“AppLink guaranteed that operator access at the thin client would be limited only to the HMI application. This ensured that the server could not be accessed from the thin client. This was an absolute requirement, by the customer, for this deployment,” said Phan.

“Shadowing allows us to troubleshoot issues remotely. Not only can we see what the operator sees, but we can take control of a terminal while an operator is standing by. Working in tandem with TermMon, we can remotely reboot a terminal after making updates to the HMI,” Phan explained.“We also took advantage of ThinManager on the server side. First, all of the users in ThinManager are synced with Active Directory so system access can still be managed by IT. Also, by using SmartSession, we are able to load balance all three HMI servers. This makes the entire thin client delivery method much more robust and improves availability in the event of server failover.”

This is a textbook example of how ThinManager benefits systems integrators by providing solutions designed for specifically the industrial manufacturing customers they serve. We asked Thanh Phan if Quantum planned to deploy ThinManager for future customer thin client deployments.

“Absolutely!” Phan replied. “While the program itself is straightforward, easy to learn, and takes little time to set up—the time saved and travel expenses avoided as a result of allowing engineers to remote in to a plant’s system and solve problems without having to appear on site is really what puts ThinManager above the other platforms we have used.’

“As an example,” Phan continued,”after our initial on-site setup, the customer experienced small problems that we were able to solve in 15-30 minutes, over the phone, using the Shadow and TermMon ActiveX features. If these features were not readily available, it could have meant a trip out to the customer, resulting in additional travel costs that would otherwise be unnecessary. At the very least, it would have resulted in an additional loss of time.’

“While instances like those listed above do not occur on a frequent basis,” Phan admitted,”when the customer does happen to have a problem, ThinManager’s features keep it from becoming an expensive one.”

Project Overview

Required deployment for new plant startup with following customer requests:

  • 48 thin clients
  • Failover for applications
  • Restrictions on operator access to servers
  • Simple thin client replacement in event of hardware failure

Fit for ThinManager:

  • All requested functionality already integrated into ThinManager
  • Other convenient features (such as TermMon ActiveX, virtual keyboard, simple screen calibration) solidified ThinManager as the final choice

Quantum readily agreed to ThinManager being used as the platform of choice for several reasons:

  • Quantum’s first choice for these systems with other customers is already always ThinManager.
  • ThinManager is very simple to set up and straightforward to use even for those that are not familiar with the platform.
  • The Shadow feature enabled the ability to effectively troubleshoot problems remotely.
  • [...]

    Cybertrol Uses ThinManager to Centralize Management, Reduce Downtime of Large Facility

    Cybertrol Engineering has used ThinManager across numerous sites ranging from installations of less than five clients to more than 50. When setting up plants with the best possible solution, ThinManager is the go-to solution for managing thin clients. Here is an example of a large-scale facility that has benefited from the use of centralized technologies and uses ThinManager managed clients every day.

    One of our customers has a plant that has been around for over 20 years, and they have seen the evolution of technology on the factory floor—from Windows NT 4 workstations and NT 4 servers to highly available datacenters and 50+ thin clients. From its humble beginnings as a small meal replacement beverage manufacturing operation to what has morphed into one of the largest ice cream manufacturing operations in the nation, the growth pace has been nothing short of astounding. In the midst of this ever-changing operational climate, they’ve also had to manage the never-ending evolution of technology and its impact on their ways of working.

    Early on, it was evident that the management of a large-scale facility with many HMI stations was no easy task. The amount of setup time required for each client and the downtime to replace a workstation failure are both labor intensive and costly.

    With the advancement of technology, the plant floor went from having legacy computers that were difficult to manage and expensive to replace, to a highly available automation datacenter. Today, the datacenter consist of 6 physical servers that are running multiple virtual server platforms (i.e. domain controllers and related services, Terminal Servers, Web Servers, Database Servers, WMS Servers, Batching Servers, an MES style HMI platform, etc.) and over 50 HMI thin clients leveraging ThinManager. This new centralized architecture has future-proofed the plant and now allows for easy management, reduced maintenance, high availability and scalable deployment.

    ThinManager, coupled with the use of thin clients on the shop floor, brings about true central management. With ThinManager and the current redundant Terminal Server solution, HMI availability is nearly 100%. A virtual PC failure usually means nothing more than a simple failover that isn’t even noticed by the end user. Managers have visibility and control of every thin client on the floor. This allows them to be more efficient and increase productivity by being able to troubleshoot problems as soon as they happen without having to travel across the plant.

    One of the biggest benefits of ThinManager is also the hardware replacement time. By keeping spare thin clients on hand, the time to replace terminals equates to mere minutes instead of hours. The frequency of failed hardware has been significantly reduced as well due to the robust construction of the thin client devices. Also, making a configuration change is simple, quick, and can be done from a single location as opposed to visiting 50+ units on the shop floor. ThinManager enhances thin client innovation by simplifying the configuration, deployment, and management of every device.

    To quote one of the controls engineers, “Without a doubt, ThinManager has made supporting the HMI workcenter portion of our operation much simpler. From direct time savings to reduced energy costs and greater reliability, ThinManager has proven to be an asset worthy of investment.”

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    Rockwell Automation acquired Automation Control Products (ACP)

    Rockwell Automation Acquires Automation Control Products to Deliver Simple and Secure Centralized Visualization and Mobility Solutions

    September 12, 2016

    MILWAUKEE–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK) today acquired Automation Control Products (ACP), a leading provider in centralized thin client, remote desktop and server management software. ACP’s two core products, ThinManager® and Relevance®, provide manufacturing and industrial leaders with visual display and software solutions to manage information and streamline workflows for a more connected manufacturing environment.

    This acquisition supports the Rockwell Automation growth strategy to help customers increase global competitiveness through The Connected Enterprise – a vision that connects information across the plant floor to the rest of the enterprise. It is accelerated by the Industrial Internet of Things and advances in technologies, such as data analytics, remote monitoring, and mobility.

    “Today’s plant engineers turn to our technology innovation and domain expertise to help improve their manufacturing quality and reliability while increasing productivity,” said Frank Kulaszewicz, senior vice president of Architecture and Software, Rockwell Automation. “With ACP’s industry-leading products now in our portfolio, we can provide new capabilities for workers as the manufacturing environment becomes more digital and connected.”

    ThinManager centralizes the management and visualization of content to every facet of a modern manufacturing operation, from the control room to the end user. It streamlines workflows and allows users to reduce hardware operation and maintenance costs. Relevance extends the ThinManager functionality through proprietary location-based technology, enabling users’ secure mobile access to content and applications from anywhere.

    “We are a perfect addition to Rockwell Automation’s industrial automation offerings that aim to increase reliability, productivity and security as well as lower energy and maintenance costs while implementing sustainable technology for leading global manufacturers,” said Matt Crandell, CEO of ACP. “We are confident that our customers will quickly see the value from our two organizations working to address their needs together.”

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    Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE: ROK), the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information, makes its customers more productive and the world more sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., Rockwell Automation employs approximately 22,000 people serving customers in more than 80 countries.

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    Prior to the acquisition, ACP was a leader in the automation industry, providing full-featured industrial thin client management and location-based mobility software. ACP is a privately-held company located in Alpharetta, GA with less than 30 employees. Its solutions are installed in 3,000 locations globally with more than 1,000 customers in 30 countries, including nearly 30 of the top 100 global manufacturers.

    Source: Rockwell Automation, Inc.
    Rockwell Automation, Inc.

    Kari Pfisterer
    Media Relations
    414.382.2555

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    Patrick Goris
    Investor Relations
    414.382.8510