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“Our customer needed to upgrade their outdated server running obsolete HMI software.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.” [...]

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.”

cybertol-thinmanager cybertrol-schematic-final

 

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!

 

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Using ThinManager – Location Resolver Technology

ThinManager’s zero client computing has always been the most secure way to deliver content to your plant floor terminals. The industry leading security of ThinManager now offers the only location-based mobile platform that allows you to create & configure secure “walls” around your data and applications using location resolvers. You gain complete control of the floor through their configuration. We call this location-based technology Relevance.

Location resolvers in Relevance are used to define locations throughout your plant. Examples of defined locations can be as broad as the entire network, a tethered thin client terminal, or a defined “geo-fenced” area.  Relevance uses technologies such as Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, NFC and QR Codes to let administrators define an unlimited number of locations.

With your locations defined, you can now deliver applications and content based on location to any number of modern mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones.

 

    • Transfer – An authenticated user on a mobile device can transfer the content from a tethered terminal to their mobile device.  When finished they can return it or have it return if the user leaves the “geo-fenced” location defined by the ThinManager Administrator.
    • Clone – An authenticated user with high level or “Supervisor” access can receive content on their tablet cloned from each line as they pass between defined locations allowing them to easily monitor statuses and reports as they supervise.
    • [...]

MailBag Friday (#44)

Every Friday, we dedicate this space to sharing solutions for some of the most frequently asked questions posed to our ThinManager Technical Support team.  This weekly feature will help educate ThinManager Platform users and provide them with answers to questions they may have about licenses, installation, integration, deployment, upgrades, maintenance, and daily operation.  Great technical support is an essential part of the ThinManager Platform, and we are constantly striving to make your environment as productive and efficient as possible.

 

We are in the middle of a system upgrade to Windows Server 2008R2 and Citrix Xenapp 6.5 for our terminal servers in a ThinManager environment.  To test the new system,  I set up an application and have been trying to run it as an application link and I can’t get it to work. I keep getting the following error message:

"Connection Error- The application you are trying to open is currently unavailable"

If I logon on to the desktop without using application link, I can run the program from the run prompt using the same text string and it works.  Any ideas?

 

The short answer is that ThinManager will function properly using Citrix in a ThinManager environment via Windows Server 2008R2.  

Please see the enclosed link for tech notes regarding getting ThinManager and Citrix: [...]

Monthly Integrator Spotlight

Extreme Conditions Call for Extreme Solutions

 

 

Grain elevators are facilities at which grains are received, stored, and then distributed for direct use, process manufacturing, or export. Most facilities, however, are home to other operations such as cleaning, drying, and blending.  For the most part, these processes have stayed the same for the last 150 years.  Of course, better elevators and facilities have been developed and implemented as time has passed, but the basic engineering has stayed the same.  In recent decades though, while those same engineering principles have stayed the same, systems and controls changed and evolved as the expansion of computer technology exploded.

As an integrator responsible for many such facilities, ESCO Automation has spent forty years developing solutions to bridge the gap between standard processes and modern network technology.  We asked Wes Dautremont, Technical Manager at ESCO Automation, about the hazards associated with creating and deploying a system to help drive facilities developed around grain elevators.  “First of all, there are pretty big temperature extremes in the actual floor environment. It goes anywhere from well below freezing to over 120 degrees in the summer months. It is also extremely dusty because of all the grain dust in the air, so it is a bit challenging for a standard PC to live in that type of environment,” said Wes.  “It’s also hazardous because there is a lot of moving equipment, open conveyor belts, and even explosion risks if you get a fire started somewhere.  That’s why we have to use Class I Div 2 rated clients.”

These environmental challenges, however, are only part of the issue with creating and deploying systems for facilities such as this.  Usually, when dealing with a plant upgrade, integrators must contend with replacing and upgrading computer hardware and IT resources.  But at their most recent grain elevator controls upgrade for one of the worlds leading food manufacturers that was not an option.  “We were replacing some equipment from the 40’s and 50’s in there.  It was some real vintage stuff.  The old system didn’t have PLC control or bin gauges.  It was just push buttons and relays, which made it difficult to troubleshoot issues and time consuming to track accurate information.  They had been using paper and pencil to track product, but didn’t have any method to capture controls or equipment issues,” said Wes.

So how do you choose the proper system to replace a system that never existed?  After attending the ThinManager Platform 6.0 Launch Event in the spring of 2012, the team at ESCO knew they had found their answer.  “We went to the 6.0 Launch Event earlier this year and it was a really good event.  I attended the training sessions along with the demo sessions.  The hands on demos were really helpful to see what new features had been added.  We knew we wanted to get more experience working with ThinManager before completing our first deployment.”

Wes then explained how ESCO took their new understanding of the ThinManager Platform and created a responsive HMI system for their client.  “We set ThinManager up in our test lab and spent a while running simulations to compare it with our attempts at setting up Terminal Services through Windows on our own. The ThinManager Platform makes it much more straight-forward and simple when you need to swap out or add a new client in the field.”

Once he had the testing complete, Wes implemented his new system in the facility.  “We installed 2 servers and 6 thin clients.  The 2 servers are set up with Redundant ThinManager and failover configuration so they can take servers down for cleaning and maintenance and still keep the system running.  The plant appreciated the improved robustness of the thin client solution along with the convenience of ThinManager features like client shadowing and ended up replacing 8 more fat clients throughout the plant with thin clients managed by ThinManager. ”

Now that they created and proved the viability of their newly designed system, what’s next for ESCO and ThinManager? “After seeing how much it streamlined the Terminal Services configuration, it has become our go-to recommendation for our customers wanting to pursue a Terminal Services environment,” concluded Wes.  “ThinManager allows any plant to move to Terminal Services architecture without having to become an expert in Microsoft Terminal Services.”

Generate big benefits by implementing Thin Clients

 

For over a decade, Automation Control Products (ACP) has been changing how the industrial automation sector does business in the competitive, fast paced, global marketplace with the ThinManager Platform.  Today, ACP is a worldwide leader in the automation industry that provides full-feature centralized thin client and terminal server management software.  Our unique platform offers trendsetting centralized management solutions for the modern factory by simplifying management of applications and visual resources.  When combined with ACP’s ThinManager, each client has performance and features unmatched by products from any other company.

With our rapid growth and expansion into the international markets, Process and Control Engineering Magazine (PACE) recently sat down with Keith Jones, International Sales Manager for ACP to discuss the basics of thin client technology and how ThinManager manages thin clients, as well as servers.

 

 

Can you outline the key business benefits of Thin Clients?

The business benefits of a Thin Client architecture come from lower capital costs for hardware, improved availability and security, and ongoing general operations costs, which using the right hardware and software architectures can be reduced by up to 70% annually.

Traditionally, people have implemented automation solutions with computers everywhere – on the plant floor, in control rooms, in the administration buildings. The PCs are connected with an automation network on one side and an office network on the other.

The two don’t mix. If you contrast that with a Thin Client setup, what you have at the operator station is a low cost, ruggedised, diskless, fanless unit.

This unit only needs to have the user interface which communicates over the network to the application running on a server. ACP’s flagship product, ThinManager, is used to enable easy and secure management of such architectures.

Using Thin Clients enables users to drastically reduce the number of PCs in their organisation and there are several good reasons to do this. PCs are an inherently weak link and have a limited life span.

I like to quote the example of one of my customers who has a smelting plant. He has 50 PCs operating in a reasonably dirty environment. Even by putting these PCs in boxes, their lifetime is about two years. Essentially, every fortnight he needs to attend to a failed PC…

 

Read the entire interview here:

http://www.pacetoday.com.au/features/generate-big-benefits-by-implementing-thin-clients

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To review the cost savings of using the ThinManager Platform, visit our ROI Calculator here.

 

To read about successful ThinManager Platform deployments, visit here.

 

To see when the next ThinManager 2-Day Training Session is being offered, visit here.

MailBag Friday (#21)

Every Friday, we dedicate this space to sharing solutions for some of the most frequently asked questions posed to our ThinManager Technical Support team.  This weekly feature will help educate ThinManager Platform users and provide them with answers to questions they may have about licenses, installation, integration, deployment, upgrades, maintenance, and daily operation.  Great technical support is an essential part of the ThinManager Platform, and we are constantly striving to make your environment as productive and efficient as possible.

 

 

We are currently running ThinManager on a Windows 2003 server. We have added McAfee antivirus software to the server and we are seeing a difference in the performance of the server and ThinManager. Do you have any suggestions as to certain exclusions that need to be added to the antivirus software to allow ThinManager to continue running with acceptable performance??

 

 

Add exceptions for ThinServer.exe, ThinServerProxy.exe, and ThinManager.exe to your exceptions. They are all located in: C:\Program Files\Automation Control Products\ThinManager.

-TM

_______________________________________

 

In the past we had some issues with the DOC.  One of our ThinManager ready thin clients failed and it had to be changed.  The current hardware and the DOC was not compatible with the new hardware.  What is the procedure if this would happen in the future?

 

 

If the Thin Clients have the Disk on Chip Update Module installed, it should be removed before any upgrade. This will eliminate the possibility of the DOC being inadvertently updated.  The DOC is tied to a specific model number, so if a thin client dies it will have to be replaced with the same model number. If replacements cannot be found/purchased, then we can create a new DOC for you.

-TM

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We have ThinManager v3.1 and would like to confirm if this is supported on Windows Server 2008.    If not, then what version of ThinManager is required to be supported with 2008 and what versions of 2008 does that support?

 

 

Just a heads up, we no longer support TM 3.1, but we can definitely assist with transferring of licenses.

ThinManager 4.0+ is fully compatible with Windows 2008.

ThinManager 5.0 SP2+ is fully compatible with Windows 2008 R2.

-TM

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I configured a terminal to show a single application. When the thinclient starts it shows desktop even when the AppLink checkbox is checked.  What Im missing?

 

It sounds like terminal services is set to not allow initial programs.

– Go to Start > Administrative Tools > Remote Desktop Services (Terminal Services) > Remote Desktop Host Configuration.
– Right click on RDP-Tcp and select properties.
– Go to the Enviroment tab and verify that it’s set to “Run initial program specified by user profile…”

-TM

______________________________________________

 

To review the cost savings of using the ThinManager Platform, visit our ROI Calculator here.

To read about successful ThinManager Platform deployments, visit here.

To see when the next ThinManager 2-Day Training Session is being offered, visit here.

 

Monthly Integrator Spotlight

ThinManager Grows With Expanding Operations

 

When a large globally recognized beverage company needed to expand their North American facilities from coast to coast, they called on the Barry Wehmiller Design Group.  With more than 25 years of experience as a global supplier of manufacturing technology, and over 600 dedicated technical professionals, they were the obvious choice for such a large project.  When it was time to improve and upgrade those facilities, the Barry Wehmiller Design Group called on ThinManager.

“We looked at a number of different options and settled on the ThinManager Platform because of its great reputation as it was created specifically for industrial applications.  It seemed to be an ideal solution for the plant floor.  It doesn’t carry a lot of overhead and it is very easy to install.  That was one of the primary considerations when we chose ThinManager,” said Mike Sommars of Barry Wehmiller Design Group.  He then explained the totality of this large multi-phase, multi-location project that was deployed and expanded upon over a period of time.

“We initially had three sites. In each of those plants we had redundant physical servers running the HMI and one of the sites had two packaging lines with a total of ten clients, of which six were thin clients and the others were thick clients.  And then the other two sites had single packaging lines with five clients total, of which three were thin clients.   Starting with the next facility, we decided to move away from thick clients and installed thirteen thin clients.  After that our next ten sites, which required a total of 55 thin clients, were all rolled out with a ThinManager Platform install using a number of redundant ThinServers.”

To complete so many successful installs required using the ThinManager Shadowing feature.  “Using the basic connectivity between the clients and the ThinServer with Shadowing allowed us to check the health of the network and troubleshoot the install remotely.  The Shadowing feature is an amazing time saver from a troubleshooting standpoint,” said Mike.  “ThinManager’s ease of configuration and deployment made it very simple to copy the terminals and replicate the install going forward.”

In the middle of this process, Barry Wehmiller integrators were asked to install a new HMI at one of the plants. “Using the new HMI with ThinManager was very easy.  Once we had the application developed the way we wanted, it didn’t make sense to port back over to a different platform.  After the initial setup, we were able to replicate it, and it became a very streamlined and simple solution without a lot of headaches.”

With so many locations and machines, the customer was concerned with the initial cost, as well as the total cost throughout the life cycle of the system.  Mike explained that the costs commonly associated with applying patches and future upgrades would be far less with the ThinManager Platform.  “By using ThinManager and making it so simple to work on the machines remotely with the Shadowing feature, we were able to reduce their maintenance cost.”

We asked Mike what the future was for their company and ThinManager.  “With such a simple learning curve and helpful tech support our plan is to continue using ThinManager on our upcoming projects.  Without hesitation, I would recommend ThinManager as a solution to anyone.”

______________________________________________

 

To review the cost savings of using the ThinManager Platform, visit our ROI Calculator here.

To read about successful ThinManager Platform deployments, visit here.

To see when the next ThinManager 2-Day Training Session is being offered, visit here.

ThinManager Q & A

Managing a Municipality

 

We recently sat down with Ken Osborne, the SCADA Systems Coordinator for Pinellas County Utilities and discussed what it takes to keep the water flowing for over one million people in the Tampa Bay area.

 

Q –  “How long have you been with the Pinellas County Utilities?”

A –  “Thirty three years”

Q –  “What did the system look like 33 years ago?”

A –  “There wasn’t a system. In about 1995, we installed a VMS based Opto 22 system for all of Pinellas County, which at the time, was four main facilities plus 300 pumps and offsite stations. After Y2K happened, when we saw that our software was not working properly, we started converting over to Wonderware and we completed our first site deployment with ThinManager on an upgrade to a Terminal Server environment with Wonderware.”

Q –  “What did ThinManager add that your system had been lacking?”

A –  “Originally, we just had a PC environment, running Wonderware and we had to manage all those PCs while contending with licensing and hard drive problems as well as issues common to a PC environment being in the waste water field.  When we made the decision to move to thin clients, we looked at how ThinManager made it easy to manage a secure desktop where people couldn’t leave their HMI screen to go somewhere else.  ThinManager software allowed us to have one program running all the time and was easy to manage off one console.”

Q –  “How many clients do you currently have deployed throughout all of your facilities?”

A –  “I have fourty ACP ThinManager clients and three ThinServers”

Q –  “How far away are your facilities from each other?”

A –  “It is thirty miles from the very end of Pinellas county in Ft. Desoto up to Tarpon Springs, so we service a wide area that runs on a dual microwave healing ring and each area has its own subnet main areas with ThinServers at each facility.”

Q –  “Can you explain what the challenges are managing software and hardware in a Water Management system? Does the environment dictate specific needs?”

A –  “It does if you have clients in an area where there is a lot of gas and corrosion.  You can lose hardware prematurely because of corrosion on the boards as well as lighting strikes and storm conditions.  We are now able to put our servers in an area that can’t be touched by the environment and put thin clients out in the field so there is a minimal cost to replace them when failure does occur.”

Q –  “Before changing over to thin clients, if you lost a PC, what kind of time and effort would be required to replace it?”

A –  “It was a lot because first we had to get a new PC, load the HMI software and all the drivers you needed to get going.  Then we had to connect it to the network, and copy the application. With a thin client we just have to plug it in, turn it on, configure the IP and it finds the ThinManager software by itself.

Q –  “After upgrading to ThinManager ready thin clients, was there an immediate cost savings?”

A –  “It definitely cost less than a work station or a PC.  And the ease of deployment makes it much quicker which is great, because time is money.”

Q –  “Do you have a dedicated in house IT department?”

A –  “There is a county IT department, but they just manage the network. We troubleshoot and maintain all of our own clients, servers, and software with a two person team.”

Q –  “So you have two people who maintain all the water management for an entire county?”

A –  “Two people run all the water and wastewater utilities for Pinellas county”

Q –  “Are there any other municipal agencies that you’ve discussed ThinManager with or showed it to who are now considering it as their network management system?”

A –  “We get calls from various municipalities throughout the state who want to tour our facilities see what we use and how we have deployed our ThinServers and ThinManager ready thin clients.

Q –  “Can you discuss the functionality that ThinManager offers in addition to your HMI?”

A –  “What we like about it is the ability to control the content being used on those desktops.  When an operator goes to use something they are only accessing our HMI.  They can’t minimize and go to something else…go browsing the net.  It is really closed down to one specific application. There’s no worry that someone is doing the wrong thing on those terminals.  So it really offers peace of mind.”

Q –  “You are in the process of upgrading to ThinManager 6.0?”

A –  “That’s correct.”

Q –  “What new functionality and applications are you planning on using that you aren’t using with your current version?”

A –  “We’re looking forward to using the Shadowing feature so we can have an HMI license that we can shuttle out to a plant so if an operator is working at one site and goes to another he can shadow his terminal and have access to his HMI right there.”

Q –  “What about Terminal to Terminal Shadowing to allow the operator to be able to move around the plant and access one session from any terminal?”

A –  “Yes, that’s probably one of the nicest features I saw on the new ThinManager software because our plants are so big and the staff may only use one main terminal shadowing the one they use the most and not have to buy a HMI license just for a terminal they might only use once a shift. They can shadow that terminal back at their office which will save us a ton of money.”

Q –  “Have you looked at using WinTMC to address some of the issues that you have with your mobile clients?”

A –  “Definitely.  One of the problems we have with the mobile clients is that our field technicians will login to the network from their vehicle using a laptop via an air card and can sometimes log into either the wrong Terminal Server or the wrong application and end up working off of bad data. I envision using the WinTMC feature so I can control where they are logging into and make sure they are using the right application. It will save me a ton of time not having to go back to find out what they did and where they might have created a problem by logging into the wrong plant or wrong set of stations.   Our goal is to be able to effectively and efficiently manage their remote connections.”

Q –  “What kind of Redundancy do you have in place today?”

A –  “Right now we have no redundancy as far as the application.  We have hardware redundancy with our Stratus Servers and no real failure there has ever happened. But there’s no application redundancy as of right now.  Our plan is to add application redundancy so if we lose one terminal server at a facility, we can use the backup located at our central station.”

Q –  “Have you had any major issues over the years of using ThinManager?”

A –  “I must say, we never had any problems with it.  We use it as a template and duplicate it to all of our sites and it never has let us down.”

Q –  “Are you currently enrolled in COMP Support?”

A –  “Yes we are.”

Q –  “Have you ever had to call or email with an issue?”

A –  “We have, but not very often.  We’ve had to call for help moving the licenses around as needed, and have had a couple of questions regarding some drivers but very rarely have we needed to call for support.”

Q –  “Could you imagine managing your current systems without ThinManager?

A –  “Not using ThinManager to manage my clients throughout the whole system would definitely be very time consuming.  Because of the distances between facilities and the unpredictable weather here in Pinellas County, machines constantly go down or need to be rebooted.  But that layer of ThinManager software does most of that work for me.”

Q –  “Do you have any advice you would give to anybody else looking at PCs versus the ThinManager thin client technology?”

A  –  “If your facility has multiple PCs, and you have the option of going to a Terminal Server with thin clients I would go that direction every time.  The ease of maintaining your system will make your life much easier and you can sleep at night.”