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Special interest group seminars attract keen interest

December 2000 News

Futuristix-Wonderware's series of industry-specific seminars held at the end of October and the beginning of November attracted decision-makers and technologists from a broad spectrum of SA industry. While significant developments such as realtime asset management and preventative maintenance were demonstrated, perhaps the single most important aspect of the seminar was the topic of web enabling.

The various seminar sessions addressed key aspects of the mining, metals, and materials handling industries as well as discrete manufacturing and process manufacturing. The seminar was aimed at a broad spectrum of IT professionals, process and technical engineers, production managers and technologists, CEOs and FDs whose companies are looking for advanced production solutions as well as ways of bridging the gap between the shop floor and the boardroom in these and related industries.

"We feel that it is most important for manufacturers to not only be kept up to date with regard to technology and approaches but that they should also be informed how these advances can be applied practically to improving production and business processes on a daily basis," says Mike le Plastrier, MD Futuristix-Wonderware.

At the seminar, Futuristix introduced WonderACT - Wonderware's advanced client technology. Special emphasis was made on the requirement for thin client computing for manufacturing. This was broken into two separate arenas - for a dedicated user and for a casual user.

For a dedicated or full time user of the product, Wonderware's new Terminal services for the InTouch product will allow the application to run on the server while the client makes use of an ultra thin terminal client. This client typically has no moving parts and can be extremely robust - thus making it ideal for industrial applications. The network overhead is so low it can even run on a 28 kb telephone line. Terminal services brings significant advantages for central administration, lower hardware costs, better security and lower cost of ownership.

A significant product introduction was that of Wonderware's SuiteVoyager, which takes full advantage of the low cost of thin clients, which need use nothing more than an Internet browser to visualise and interact with plant floor information coming from Wonderware's InTouch systems. "The 'plug-and-play' ease of Internet portals, together with their low cost and speed using new Internet technologies like XML, means that more casual users can have access to meaningful operational information," says le Plastrier. "It is important to note that all these benefits are not at the cost of any compromise or the involvement of users in anything more complex than using an on-off switch and a mouse. Wonderware says that the use of XML (eXtension Mark-up Language, together with XSL (Extensible Style Language) and VML (Vector Mark-up Language) is fast becoming a de facto standard in Internet technology - and that it (Wonderware) is the first to make use of this technology in its thin Internet client tools. These allow either one way viewing or even full control, depending on the security level of the user."

Another solution of note is ActiveFactory, designed to allow for the easy, graphical or numeric analysis of plant and process data stored in IndustrialSQL. The software allows for the dissemination of information across a network, intranet or Internet. ActiveFactory and SuiteVoyager provide complementary technologies that may be used together in the same web-enabled plant data solution.

"The third solution that contributes to an unprecedented level of access to information is SCADAlarm," continues le Plastrier. This is an enterprise-wide telephony messaging system that will reach key personnel on their cellphones, standard telephones, e-mail or any other communication medium in the event of alarms and that also allows them to take corrective action if necessary. With the advent of web enabling across a broad spectrum of key applications, manufacturing is rapidly moving into a new era of flexibility with respect to information access of key operational processes."



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