Concept Systems

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. [...]

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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Dairy Farmers of America Reduces Downtime with Resilient Thin Client Tech

When you think of Dairy Farmers of America you probably think of milk. While you wouldn’t be wrong to have such a thought, milk processors do a lot more than you think with the raw milk that comes from the cow.

Dairy Farmers of America is a co-op owned by over 14,000 dairy farmers. With 2015 net sales over $13.8 billion you can see that dairy production is serious business. It’s more than milk though. This particular plant takes in over 160 trucks full of raw milk every day. The material skimmed from the raw milk is turned into milk powder that is used in all manner of food production.

ACP recently spoke with Dan Malyszko from Malisko Engineering about upgrades to the DFA skimming plant in Portales, NM. “One of the biggest issues was an obsolete HMI server and client infrastructure.  The Windows® XP client computers are now out of support and the server was at the end of its serviceable life.  This outdated infrastructure was prone to system crashes that either slowed production or stopped it completely,” Malyszko stated. “These folks need to skim milk, not have their profits skimmed from outdated computer systems.”

The plant had tried to modernize its computer network before by using commercial grade thin clients with embedded OSes. These clients were still hard to manage and they didn’t stand up well in the process intensive environment.  What’s more, the server side still required manual intervention to switch to backup HMI client servers in the event of a server crash. Downtime was still an issue.

Enter Malisko Engineering and an idea for a superior, fault-tolerant system that would not only reduce downtime, it would also make the whole system easier to manage.

Malisko Engineering is a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner and have had the chance to attend several Rockwell roadshows within the last couple of years. Recently a series of those roadshows focused on the benefits of server virtualization and application deployment to thin clients.

There were three main participants at these shows and their combined technology offered what Dan Malyszko considered to be the most “resilient” plant floor technology available. Rockwell Automation’s PlantPAx Process Automation solution was front and center, but Stratus Technologies was showcasing their fault-tolerant server hardware and ACP was demonstrating their new ThinManager thin client management platform. Taking advantage of virtualization along with these three powerhouse solutions was something Malyszko was sure would meet and exceed the needs of the DFA plant in Portales.

“Uptime, continuous availability, and redundancy were my customer’s main concerns. The Stratus ftServer system made the server hardware redundant while ACP ThinManager offered thin client failover as well as server redundancy,” said Malyszko. “Add in fault-tolerant, scalable storage along with FactoryTalk View SE software redundancy, and this architecture is as bullet proof as you can make a modern industrial automation and control system. Having a solid infrastructure like this is a huge step in working towards the ‘connected enterprise’ that so many of our customers are striving for.”

The new ThinManager-Ready thin clients make a large part of the resilience of the system. These clients do not have an embedded OS. They boot over the network and can be replaced in under two minutes in case of a hardware failure. They are also very easy to manage from a central location because they do not require local configuration.

“Hours and perhaps days of downtime have been eliminated by removing the unsupported PCs and replacing them with ThinManager-Ready thin clients,” stated Eric Miller, Engineering Manager for DFA. “Hopefully other DFA plants around the country will be able to replicate our success. Getting rid of the old and bringing in the new has been the best technology decision we have made. Now we can focus on our process and stop wasting time with outdated computer systems.”

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Happy Manufacturing Day

Today, October 2nd, 2015, is Manufacturing Day. Manufacturing Day℠ is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. This is an exciting opportunity as many manufacturers are opening their doors to the public today to offer tours and to show just how the manufacturing process works for them.

As a “tip of the cap” to all those in this great industry, we have put together a video about ThinManager in a sit down interview with ACP’s CEO, Matt Crandell, asking where it all started, and where it is going.  ThinManager is the global leader in thin client management and industrial mobility.  Without our partners and customers in the manufacturing industry, we simply would not be where we are today.

To download and try ThinManager free for 30 days, please click the link below.  Thank you to all that support us and the manufacturing industry.  Happy Manufacturing Day!




Heavy Metal, Thin Technology

RoviSysWhen you think of American industry, one of the first things that comes to mind is steel. Every skyscraper, bridge, rail line, automobile, etc. incorporates steel because its strength is unmatched when it comes to supporting the weight, wear and tear that these applications require.

Steel’s history is part of American history. Although the industry has changed over the years, the product is still a basic building block for anything durable that humans choose to construct. One of Rovisys’s largest customers is a part of that history and is now the largest steel company in the world. When they wanted to add thin client computing to their Cleveland Works site, they chose ThinManager and ThinManager-Ready thin clients for the job.

It wasn’t by chance that ThinManager was selected. The Senior Automation Engineer for the large steel producer, and Noah Hamilton with RoviSys knew they would need a flexible, yet powerful tool to turn one of the oldest power generation stations in the country into a state-of-the-art computer-controlled powerhouse.

The steel maker needed to be able to easily integrate their HMI with a high availability computer network. They also needed hardware that could withstand the harsh environment of rolled steel production.

However RoviSys needed to be able to get ThinManager up and running with existing hardware until thin clients could be introduced. Luckily they were able to use the WinTMC feature in ThinManager to setup the initial infrastructure with PCs they already used. WinTMC allowed them to install a simple executable onto the PCs and use ThinManager to deliver apps to that hardware until the thin clients were purchased and put into place for production.

Noah Hamilton, Sr. Engineer at RoviSys, was also familiar with many of the other features that ThinManager brought to the table. By taking advantage of the AppLink feature, the steel maker was able to deliver only the application that the plant floor operators needed at the terminals they worked on. This prevented access to other things at the workstation like a desktop. They also setup Instant Failover for the thin clients so that the applications delivered to the operators would always be available, even if a server lost its connection or experienced a system failure.

Hamilton also shared how RoviSys and the steel maker are working on setting up a centralized visualization center within the office space at the plant. “The idea is to use an Arista thin client capable of supporting up to five monitors. It will support a single 32” monitor surrounded by four Hope touchscreens to allow maintenance engineers from the utilities team to monitor the plant from a single unified workspace. When combined with the Shadowing feature in ThinManager, plant floor operators can call the controls engineers and have them shadow the terminal they are working on to resolve production issues in real time.”

Hamilton mentioned more future plans to roll out ThinManager’s plant floor mobility solution, Relevance. “When you run a five square mile large facility, mobility can make a big difference in productivity and safety. “ The plan is to equip process managers with 4G enabled tablets that allow them to view the process from anywhere on site. “We keep rolling out more and more ThinManager at the mill,” Hamilton stated. “ThinManager makes everything we do easier to manage.”

ACP Announces New Hardware Partnership with Dynics

Dynics-logoDynics-hardware1 ACP is excited to announce that Dynics has become an official hardware partner offering ThinManager Ready technology.

Dynics is a leader in the production of industrial touchscreens. The proven Dynics technology will now become ThinManager Ready. Dynics products have always been able to support ThinManager through the PXE boot functionality, but when Ed Gatt, president of Dynics, saw the value of a ThinManager and Dynics solution, they were excited to offer a ThinManager Ready machine to their customers.

Dynics-TruckAs an exclamation point on this exciting partnership, Dynics will be integrating ThinManager into their state-of-the-art Demo Trailer, an incredible showcase to all the different offerings Dynics brings to the table. This Freightliner business-class trailer is filled with the latest in Dynics technology displaying touchscreens sized from 8 inches all the way up to 80 inches in size!

Forging the Future in the Global Steel Industry


PREMIER Systems Integrators is a trend setting integration organization with more than 20 years experience creating custom system management networks for automated industrial facilities.  They recently completed a project that was massive in scope, size, and complexity for a global leader in steel manufacturing…and once again, they used ThinManager to tie it all together.

At a total cost of more than $1.4 billion dollars, the newly expanded facility they were tasked with modernizing employs 650 people and produces more than 6 million net tons of steel each year.

Because of the size of the project and harsh environment, which includes electric arc furnaces, ladle furnaces, slab casters, a strip mill, and hot dip lines, there were many factors to consider before implementation.  The facility has both a hot side and a cold side so they had to stay flexible with their architecture and deployment of hardware.  The customer needed to have as few people on the production deck as possible, especially around the furnace, because it is such a safety hazard.

The basic hardware system design has thin clients running the HMI applications from a pair of virtual Terminal Servers, which are retrieving the I/O information from the PLCs.  Most of the thin clients are located in the furnace control room, with a few others deployed in other locations to enable remote monitoring.  There are two physical servers with all the Wonderware objects on one server while the other is being used as a redundant backup.  In addition, they have a virtual domain controller and a virtual historian using the Wonderware Historian.

With so many different areas and systems, PREMIER decided to use ThinManager to manage the thin clients and make the environment more efficient for the employees.  They needed to deliver eight different HMI applications that are spread throughout the facility to more than fifteen thin clients.  Some of them are being used to run multiple sessions of the same applications.  Most of them use the ThinManager MultiMonitor feature because they have a lot of processes happening at the same time, so the operators and engineers usually have multiple sessions running.  Some even use a workstation where they have a virtual machine built for the maintenance staff to be able to troubleshoot. They have six IP cameras on one of the MultiMonitor systems that they keep pulled up and switch between that session and a Terminal Shadow that shadows a station in a pump house which is unmanned so they can monitor those cameras and use Terminal to Terminal Shadowing to switch between that and the pulpit in the furnace where they monitor the water system.  This eliminates the need to have two sessions running at two stations when one of them is always unmanned.

The customer was quick to appreciate the value ThinManager brought to their system management.  But we wanted to know what PREMIER Systems Integrators thought was the most useful feature in their newly designed system architecture.  “We think the MultiMonitor feature that allows multiple sessions to be on one screen is great.  To be able to monitor the PLCs and troubleshoot problems in real time is extremely useful.  This is the first time we have really used MultiMonitor that way. We usually just see a single monitor being used, so being able to monitor multiple sessions on one monitor is a real game changer,” said Larry Grate, Senior Engineer for PREMIER System Integrators.

Regardless of the environment or the scope of the project, the ThinManager Platform continues to impress both integrators and customers with its efficiency and ability to reduce mean time. And with each successful deployment, the reputation of “The Power of Thin” continues to grow.

Managing Multiple Systems to Run the Packaging Industry


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. [...]