Our partners at Project Binder share their success using ThinManager to bring new life to an aging system. Read on to find out how this was accomplished and how it paves the way for expanding the project further.
The Desire for Virtualization Drives ThinManager Centralized Management in Ireland
For decades, industrial automation in North America has seen consistent growth in both volume as well as technological development. In many parts of the world, however, there has been a slower adoption rate of these new innovations in the manufacturing sector. One such innovation, Virtualization, has forced companies to reexamine their stance on waiting to adopt new technologies.
Enter NeoDyne, located in Cork, Ireland. Specializing in creating production performance monitoring and process improvement solutions, this fifteen year old system integration firm has plunged into these new technologies head first as they continue to modernize facilities across Ireland. One of their current deployments is a Manufacturing Information System (MIS) at the main processing facility owned and operated by a global leader in the cheese and whey protein market.
Martin Farrell, the Automation Director at NeoDyne, explained to us how their customer’s desire to virtualize brought them to adopting the ThinManager Platform. “The IT managers at their main facility had been trying to support all their standalone SCADA systems for the last 20 years. Very early on in the planning process they decided they wanted a virtualized environment without physical servers sitting on the plant floor. They were looking to bring all of their applications into a VMware virtualized environment that would deliver their applications to the plant floor. At that point we advised them to adopt thin clients to replace their standalone PCs.”
It became obvious to the team at NeoDyne that updating the network infrastructure while implementing a Wonderware System Platform based architecture in a virtualized environment was going to require a centralized management solution. “We had limited experience with Terminal Services and thin clients before this deployment but knew that this was the direction we had to go. We did research, read a lot of articles and found ThinManager. It has turned out to be a fantastic product that allowed us to tie everything together. It is an intuitive software platform that makes configuration and management easy,” said Martin.
Once deciding to implement all of these platforms, the first step was to tackle the challenge of integrating them with their planned thin client deployment. Because the facility had three separate areas for cheese production, ingredients, and utilities, they decided to construct a network architecture using dual redundant I/O servers in each area from Solutions PT. “The facility is still very much a Unit based production outfit. Even though it is an automated plant, they still have a model of individual units and each unit requires its own dedicated control room. At the control level, it was a mix and match of everything, but we did put together a very organized structure on what had previously been a disparaged group of PLC platforms from Siemens to Allen-Bradley to Mitsubishi to ABB. ”
Once the architecture was firmly in place, Martin and the team at NeoDyne started applying a multitude of ThinManager Platform features to simplify everything and make the system more efficient. “We have 2 ThinManager Servers set up in a mirrored configuration so if a thin client for any reason fails to connect to one, it automatically connects to the other. If we go home at the end of the day and one of the servers fails, we know they won’t be in the dark and we have time to get it back online with minimum disruption to the operations.”
Martin then explained some of the other ThinManager Platform features they decided to take advantage of. “We deployed AppLink to deliver client sessions so the operators only have access to the InTouch Application without having to click around a Terminal Services session via the desktop to get to their SCADA application. We also use it to launch a particular application so if the session crashes it will automatically reboot the application.”
NeoDyne, like many others, also uses the ThinManager Shadowing feature to provide off-site assistance by being able to remotely log into an operator’s user session and guide them through problems in real time without having to be in the facility. However, they are also using it to reduce licensing overhead costs for their customer as well. “Something else we have done in the facility is to allow an operator to go between two control rooms without using additional licenses via the Terminal to Terminal Shadowing feature. We can have one session that is shadowed between two control rooms and depending on which Control Room he is in, he can take ownership of either application. These “part time” thin clients that are used infrequently can identify as a shadowed thin client to avoid purchasing additional licenses to maximize cost efficiency.”
Their next goal was to find a way to allow the facility managers and supervisors to view the application without needing to travel through the facility. ThinManager WinTMC made that a simple task without having to complicate the proposed facility network architecture. “The main benefit of deploying the WinTMC feature is that it allows the plant managers and supervisors to access the application session on their desktop PCs to monitor plant performance and switch back and forth without needing additional hardware. Also, as the PCs on the floor die they can replace them with thin clients instead of PCs as part of a continuing maintenance budget. It gives them flexibility on how and when they buy more hardware.”
Now, more than a year since they began this project, we asked Ciaran Murphy, Automation Systems Lead for NeoDyne, how further deployment of ThinManager has been unfolding at the facility. “What we have found is that using ThinManager to manage the thin client setup and the actual thin clients themselves down on the plant floor is allowing us to gradually retire more and more of their SCADA clients. Their existing control systems and standalone SCADA systems are actually still there. We put in a Manufacturing Information System (MIS) over the top to analyze plant performance. Now, having seen the benefits of this technology, they will gradually replace their existing Thick clients on the Plant Floor with Thin Clients. Over the next few years they will continue to replace the rest of the standalone PCs on the floor and just be left with thin clients.”
Now that ThinManager is efficiently driving the facility systems, we wondered what is next for the team at NeoDyne. Ciaran was more than happy to tell us. “With the success of this project, we showed other clients what ThinManager could do and are already deploying it into another ongoing project we are involved in with another major dairy here in Ireland who was impressed by the product. Going forward, all of our future platform solutions for the next 5, 10, 20 years will have ACP ThinManager Platform as a fundamental part of our standard system designs and we will actively propose it. To us there isn’t even a choice; if the site allows it, we will use ThinManager.”
ABOUT NEODYNE: NeoDyne Plant Information Management solutions enable end user Lean Manufacturing, Process Performance Improvement, Overall Equipment Effectiveness, and Cost Improvement business transformation initiatives. The NeoDyne solution is specifically tailored for milk / food processing and combines features to manage and provide traceability for food batch manufacturing in continuous/batch processes. Plant automation and Quality/LIMS and ERP systems are joined into one unified solution.
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Is it possible to have different automatic logins for applications running on different servers. It looks to me that the auto login is thin client based. Is that the case?
By default the login is specified at the terminal level. If you need different display clients to use different credentials, you may specify an override:
Right click Terminal > Modify > Next x4 (Display Client Selection) > Select a Display client from the right pane > Override
Which Windows Operating systems does the latest version of WinTMC run under?
Will WinTMC run in a Windows Server 2000 or 2003 environment? We thought about deploying our old SCADA server computers as WinTMC clients, but they’re running Server 2000 and Server 2003. We tried to install WinTMC on both those computers, but the installation failed and I received the following error message: “not a valid Win32 application.”
That error usually comes about when trying to run a 64 bit application on a 32 bit processor/OS.
Effective Management of Facilities Large and Small
ESE Inc., the Engineering Solutions Experts, recently became a ThinManager Platinum Integrator after a number of successful, large scale deployments. When we initially contacted ESE, their Director of Manufacturing Information Systems John Tertin stated, “This is going to be the new standard, and ThinManager is part of that standard. Going forward, ThinManager will be employed wherever the SE system goes.” Apparently, John wasn’t kidding because when we checked in with him again, he had another successful integration story to share with us.
After deploying and managing a Rockwell FactoryTalk View SE system at a food processing facility in central Wisconsin, the Mariani Packing Company of Vacaville, California purchased that facility. John told us, “This was originally a major producer for Mariani that we had done work for previously and Mariani ended up buying the facility, which is how our relationship with Mariani started.”
“Mariani is a large dried fruit producer that makes just about every variety of dried fruit you can think of. The facility at their Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin plant has embraced Rockwell Automation’s PlantPAX architecture and uses Logix controllers with the FactoryTalk View SE distributed SCADA package. Since Mariani has expanded the production area at their Wisconsin facility, it became an ideal application for the ThinManager Platform,” said John. When asked if Mariani is seeing value in such a small system, John replied, “They have already seen the benefits even though they originally started with only three thin clients and still had two existing thick clients on the plant floor. When we proposed this solution to them, I explained that switching out the thick clients when they failed, or to proactively save money on maintenance costs would be extremely simple to do. They found a lot of value in that. They decided to replace them with thin clients, which took less than an hour to do.”
More often than not, stories about successful deployments of hardware or software revolve around an organization trying to deploy and manage large numbers of clients and terminals since the per unit Return on Investment (ROI) is multiplied for each seat. So how does a five client solution save money? “Aside from immediate benefits within a manufacturing plant, ESE can also reduce headaches and minimize downtime for customers from within its own building. The ThinManager Platform enables ESE’s engineers to remotely access any of the terminals on the plant floor and shadow their systems to see real time plant data, help determine where problems may be occurring, and show an operator first-hand how to overcome the problem. Mariani is a good example, from a small facility perspective, of how you can still find value in the product despite only deploying five clients. We were easily able to move their thick clients onto the network using PXE Boot, and it is easy for them to expand beyond that,” said John.
According to Jesse Urban, the Director of Operations at Mariani Packing Company, ThinManager has proven itself to be the right solution despite the limited scope of the project. “Using ThinManager has reduced IT maintenance costs, eliminated the hassle of rolling out patches, and ended the practice of maintaining separate configurations on several plant floor HMIs. Installing additional clients is very easy to do. We’ve already replaced some of our thick clients with ThinManager ready thin clients and it only takes about 10 minutes to add or replace a terminal in our production area,” states Urban.
With such a wide range of facilities adopting the ThinManager Platform as their network management solution regardless of the size of the deployment, it is only a matter of time before ThinManager becomes the industry standard.
View or download the PDF Version of this Success Story here.
The ThinManager ROI Calculator can be found here.
Find out more about ESE here.
Stacking up the Benefits: ThinManager and Rockwell Automation
For nearly thirty years, ESE, Inc, the Engineering Solutions Experts, has seen continuous growth in plant automation engineering. Headquartered in Marshfield, Wisconsin, ESE specializes in Rockwell solutions for global food and beverage manufacturers. Yet, after years of providing support and upgrades, it became apparent that there was a missing piece to the puzzle. That piece turned out to be ThinManager.
Contacted by a major cheese processing plant in California, ESE was brought in to upgrade their existing processes with a combination of modern hardware and a Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk View SE distributed SCADA system. They replaced the older PanelView terminals that were on the factory floor with Allen-Bradley 200R VersaView Industrial PCs, as well as a legacy RSView32 SCADA system to give them more computing power and greater flexibility.
“FactoryTalk View SE was designed for this type of large scale integration,” stated John Tertin, Director of Manufacturing Information Systems at ESE. “Rockwell Automation offers the FactoryTalk View SE Client which can be installed locally on a terminal, but in larger configurations, the recommended architecture is to use a Terminal Server that has the SE Client on it while terminals on the plant floor connect to the Terminal Server using Remote Desktop Services. There really is a minimal amount of configuration because that’s what the product is designed to do.”
After fully upgrading the hardware and software, a new set of needs and challenges became apparent to both the client, as well as ESE. Using the Allen-Bradley 200R VersaView Industrial PCs on the floor left the customer vulnerable to viruses and malware via the USB ports on the PCs. In addition, maintenance was a headache as the control system is isolated from the internet and corporate networks which meant there was no way to upgrade or apply security patches to the Windows XP-based PCs. This made them more vulnerable and less efficient over time…which is how ThinManager was introduced as a solution.
By using ThinManager, they converted the VersaView 200Rs from PCs to thin clients via the PXE Boot function (ThinManager XLi). PXE Boot allowed the PCs to load the ThinManager firmware directly from LAN, instead of using the Windows OS located on the PC hard drive. This let them immediately switch from PC based computing with high maintenance to thin client based computing with savings due to centralized management.
With most new software installs, there is usually a learning curve on the part of the integrator as they become accustomed to the best way to install and deploy new software. But, as John Tertin soon discovered, that was not an issue with ThinManager. “It was fairly straight forward. I’d say we got the original configuration set up within a couple of days. And that included getting the clients set up with mirrored ThinServers, getting the AppLink configured, and optimizing the settings relating to periodic monitoring for load balancing. The biggest hurdle was cross referencing verbiage and terminology, which required referring to the documentation and drawing a correlation between familiar functions.”
When asked for an example, John stated, “We use the ThinManager AppLink, which by name is unfamiliar, but once you understand that using AppLink is the same as opening up RDS and clicking on the programs tab, it is pretty straight forward as long as you have familiarity with the software.”
After breezing through the ThinManager install, John and the other integrators at ESE immediately began to see the benefits of ThinManager. “What’s nice about ThinManager is that I can create my display client to look at one or a number of Terminal Servers where the configuration file already exists. At that point, it only takes 30 seconds to create another client because I only have to do the configuration on the Terminal Server once. Then, using AppLink as soon as I use the display server, it immediately launches because everything is going through that common Terminal Server which is only configured once.” Highlighting another significant benefit to using the ThinManager platform, Tertin continued, “We used to have a 2-page written procedure for adding a SCADA terminal to the network including instructions on naming the computer, joining it to the control system domain, configuring automatic login, etc. Using ThinManager, this is no longer necessary.”
“Installing ThinManager allowed the customer to save significantly on their administrative costs because we no longer had to go to the facility and manually disinfect SCADA terminals. After that happens a couple of times, the ROI for a ThinManager solution is pretty apparent. Now they are no longer susceptible to those viruses, nor are they required to continue installing Windows updates on the individual machines with no connectivity. They still have to keep the Terminal Server updated, but that is only one machine as opposed to dozens scattered across the plant floor,” said John Tertin.
So what does the future hold for ESE’s large food manufacturing customer and ThinManager? “This is going to be the new standard,” said John. “They have already standardized on the FactoryTalk View SE distributed platform, and ThinManager is part of that standard. Going forward, ThinManager will be employed wherever the SE system goes.”
View or download the PDF Version of this Success Story here.
The ThinManager ROI Calculator can be found here.
Find out more about ESE here.