Jordan Engineering Builds a ThinManager Thin Client Solution “One Brick at a Time” for Canadian Precious Metals Company
There just aren’t many companies that run their businesses on old school principles. Regular face time with customers, doing a job right the first time, and giving back to the people around them are just a few. Jordan Engineering does all this and more. Giving indeed seems to be the secret ingredient for this integration company’s success.
CEO and founder, Sandra Murre has always worked hard to build success. Sandra and Jordan Engineering share that success with their employees, their customers and the world around them. The profits from the business get split into thirds; one third is returned to the employees through profit-sharing, one third goes back into the business to improve customer service, fund growth and business performance and yet another third goes to charity.
It’s not just an old school business model either. Jordan Engineering is actually located in an old school building that they are renovating into their offices. Located in the outskirts of Beamsville , Canada, the office is a 108-year-old former school building that now serves as the company headquarters.
ACP recently had a chance to talk with Sandra and Jordan Engineering Customer Liaison, Brian Davidson. We talked about the company, their customers and their success with our ThinManager industrial thin client software solution.
A New Technology Platform for Factory Automation
In 2008 when one of Jordan Engineering’s larger customers needed to begin replacing the PCs in their plant, Sandra Murre and her team knew that thin clients would be the best solution. The customer, a Canadian precious metals refining company (CPMRC), had a rugged environment that was taking its toll on the PCs. It was also a burdensome task to keep those computers up-to-date with OS patches, virus updates and, or course, application upgrades.
It was about six years before this that Jordan Engineering first learned about ACP’s ThinManager software for managing terminal servers and thin clients. They had come for training at an ACP event in Florida because they were looking for a way to overcome the struggles they were having with PCs at several sites they supported.
A year later ACP’s Director of Education, Paul Burns, traveled to Canada to train Jordan staff at their annual Automation Workshop. “I still remember Paul dragging his bag of equipment through the snow when he showed up to train us,” Murre recalls. “This was our first real exposure to ThinManager and our understanding of what we could do for our customers with the thin client technology.”
After this they began installing ThinManager for several customers. During this time CPMRC’s main engineer had been coming to the Automation Workshop that Jordan Engineering hosts for its customers every year. “Every year she would see the progress being made with thin clients and eventually decided it was something that could really work for her plant,” said Murre.
Q & A with Sandra Murre and Brian Davidson from Jordan Engineering
What is it that your customer CPMRC does?
Murre: “They refine precious metals. Ore is brought in from a variety of places for refining. Cobalt, nickel, and gold are some of the metals they process. They currently have 21 “brick” thin clients running from 2 terminals servers operating in a mirrored license configuration.”
What applications are CPMRC using?
Murre: “They run iFix view node and have separate iFix SCADA nodes that are PCs. There are about 5 SCADA systems to their 20+ thin clients. The clients point to the SCADA nodes to collect the I/O.”
“They use version 3.3 of ThinManager. All of their data, including their LIMS system is pushed through the iFix session. It was setup this way for security reasons before they ever moved to thin clients,” Murre added.
How many thin clients are in the configuration?
Davidson: “They started with one thin client and one server back in September 2008. In January 2009 they moved to the redundant server configuration and since then they have been migrating their iFix stations over to the bricks. They have 21 “brick” thin clients migrated so far.”
How is the customer using the ThinManager thin clients?
Davidson: “Once they discovered their iFix application would run on the thin clients correctly they began going through [the plant] and picking certain nodes to upgrade. They are now going through all four buildings on their site and upgrading the iFix nodes to thin clients. The lead engineer currently has three more bricks sitting on his desk to be installed the next time they have an opportunity to hold production for regular maintenance.”
Murre: “One thing to note about this project is that it is being led by Engineering and not IT. Because of the nature of replacing the PCs over time, it is being treated as a maintenance budget issue rather than a capital expense. Jordan has a staffer on site once a week for support so when the time comes, they are right there to install the next building block in CPMRC’s thin client network.”
“One good thing about the ThinManager system is the simplicity of replacement. It is so simple that anyone can swap one [thin client] out. It was really nice to hand over that maintenance to the staff at CPMRC,” said Murre. “ThinManager and the thin clients only take up two to five percent of our staff’s weekly time onsite at CPMRC. The system just works the way it is supposed to.”
What other benefits have you seen using ThinManager?
Murre: “We also spend a lot less time in security. Before ThinManager we used to spend an inordinate amount of time disabling CD drives, USB ports, locking down task manager, locking down keyboard shortcuts, etc. All of those headaches are gone.”
Davidson also added, “You also save a lot of time by not having to go to each station patching Windows updates or specific hardware issues on individual PC hardware. Now they keep one spare brink on the shelf and it covers all 20 bricks on the floor. Before you would have had multiple PC hardware to cover the variety of PCs running on the floor.”
“CPMRC has seen a significant drop in maintenance costs. They used to walk around and load Windows and antivirus patches every week. Now they can load those updates more strategically in much less time,” mentioned Murre. “CPMRC is really comfortable using ThinManager because they received a strong client reference from another Jordan Engineering customer who is using ThinManager for a very similar application.”
Jordan Engineering seems to really like ThinManager. What does CPMRC say about it?
Davidson: “The customer has remarked about how easy it is to use the ThinManager wizards to setup and manage the thin clients. There really is no learning curve—it’s very straightforward. One of the great features for maintenance is ThinManager Shadowing. When an operator is having trouble, a manager can shadow the terminal screen from the control room or another thin client and see what the status is of that brick. They also use the “send an email” when a brick goes down. The line manager has ThinManager send an email to his Blackberry when a brick goes down.”
Did you ever try any other thin client solutions before ACP ThinManager?
Murre: “We dabbled with the iFix iClient tool but that never panned out. It was a fat client solution anyway. The true thin client route was the best way to go.”
What kind of saturation does ThinManager have at the CPMRC plant?
Murre: “Currently ThinManager thin clients have replaced well over half of the iFix PC nodes. Eventually all PCs will be replaced with ACP thin client hardware.”
Does Jordan Engineering have any future plans for ThinManager?
Murre: “We have quoted it as an option to many industries and will continue to promote it where ever we feel it is a proper solution.”
About Jordan Engineering
For over a decade, Jordan Engineering has been providing industrial software solutions to clients spanning a wide vertical market. Their solutions span the industrial control environment from instrumentation and control panels on the manufacturing floor through the PLC and HMI to interfaces with corporate ERP systems. They have a history of working closely with operations, maintenance, IT, project management, and industry specialists to develop customized, user-friendly systems with both long term and short term ROI.
At the core of all Jordan Engineering`s designs and implementations are the work horses of the industrial control environment: the HMI and PLC. Jordan is a Wonderware Certified System Integrator. They are a member of the Canadian Schneider Electric System Integrator Alliance Program. They have excellent relationships and proven successes with GE Fanuc, Rockwell Automation, and other PLC and HMI manufacturers and products.
About the “bricks”
ACP enables multiple hardware devices from several world-class hardware manufacturers. Several of them make a small form-factor unit with a metal casing, no hard drive, and no fan. Their small rectangular shape has caused many customer to nickname them the “brick”.