Success story

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Why install a full-fledged Windows client to run just one application? The wheel manufacturer RONAL GROUP also asked itself this question and replaced a very complex Windows installation in the Landau production with an easy-to-use thin client software solution from openthinclient.

As in other manufacturing industries, industrial terminals for inputting or outputting information are in operation at numerous points in production. This applies, for example, to the recording of the flow of goods, quantities and inventories, measurement data and the input of production and control data. As a rule, this is done via the classic green screen of the IBMi series or an intranet website.

Björn Drescher is the IT team leader responsible for the Landau site. He wondered why a full Windows has to be installed to run just one application – IBM emulation, for example. Regardless of whether we are talking about Windows XP, Windows 7, 8 or 10, all systems bring a lot of functions and applications that have no place in production.

When I or one of my colleagues used to go into production,
we would see a Solitaire on the screen every now and then.

Björn Drescher
responsible IT team leader.

For this reason, a great deal of effort and know-how was initially put into ‘slimming down’ the Windows clients
to the point where it was virtually only possible to work with them.

In detail, the GroupPolicy was adapted to hide the start menu, deactivate applications and seal off the operating system so that employees could not simply bring their USB sticks from home and download data.

Thus, two worker monitors were defined, one with IBM i-Access and one with a Web browser that automatically launches the intranet site. However, this construct required a lot of maintenance.

After fueling the terminals using software distribution, the domain settings, computer name, ou-ID, etc. had to be adjusted on each device.

Furthermore, user-level configurations and autostart settings were
were made.

RONALGROUP Landau Drohne

From being a pioneer in the global market of light alloy wheels, the RONAL GROUP has developed since 1969 into one of the leading manufacturers for all renowned automobile producers worldwide. More than 7000 employees at locations in 11 countries stand for customer orientation, innovative strength and quality. In addition to the passenger car original equipment market, the RONAL GROUP is also represented in the accessories market with its own brands RONAL and SPEEDLINE CORSE with an extensive and up-to-date range of light alloy wheels. In addition, with the SPEEDLINE TRUCK brand, the RONAL GROUP offers an attractive product range for commercial vehicles, trailers and coaches. No wonder, then, that around 10,000 wheels leave the plant in Landau (Pfalz) every day.

RONALGROUP Terminal 3

The RONAL GROUP therefore looked around for a
‘narrow’ thin client solution.
The choice fell on openthinclient.

Regardless of this, the various
thin client manufacturers have one thing in common, says
Björn Drescher: “It doesn’t matter to me,
what kind of system runs on the terminal,
most of the thin-client manufacturers rely on
Linux. For me, it’s a black box,
that has to fulfill the following requirements:

  • easy to administer,
  • secure and stable in use
  • out in production, cost-effective.

RONAL GROUP did not use an all-in-one solution like some
all-in-one solution, as some thin-client providers have in
providers have in their program, but rather the software was to be
on the existing industrial terminals from the
of the manufacturer Hematec, because the experience with these
with these terminals in stainless steel housings have been
have been extremely positive for years. Depending on the location on the
the plant site, the terminals are exposed to
temperatures of -20 °C outdoors in the winter, or in the foundry
sometimes over +60 °C in the summer.

“Suppose a terminal breaks in production today. Then I go to the warehouse, get a new one…make an IP reservation on the DHCP and create it in the openthinclient manager. This all takes about 5 minutes with booting and walking, then the colleague can continue his work. With our previous Windows solution, just installing the image took around four hours.”

Fabian Burkhart
Administrator

RONAL GROUP and openthinclient then looked at the use case together, whereupon some adjustments to the openthinclient software were made and tested. RONAL GROUP has now defined this solution as the group standard for terminals in the production environment, and today it is used in Germany, Mexico, the Czech Republic and Poland. Compared to the previous Windows solution
the operating system is loaded over the network (via PXE) from a central boot and management server. From the terminal’s point of view, all programs, network drives and configurations are readonly.

Depending on the type of workstation monitor, either the i-Access or Browser application is automatically
either the i-Access or Browser application is automatically started after booting the Linux-based OS. The user at the terminal has no possibility to execute anything with the device other than the intended task.

In addition to the associated increase in availability and the focus on the application purpose of such an industrial terminal, the responsible administrator Fabian Burkhart is also extremely satisfied.

RONALGROUP Terminal 2

This brings enormous benefits to the entire production and contributes significantly to reducing costs arising from downtime.

Fabian Burkhart
Administrator
RONALGROUP Terminal

Fabian Burkhart is responsible for the openthinclient installation. He describes the settings made via the openthinclient manager like this: The USB interfaces are centrally disabled. When the application is closed, it is automatically restarted. The production employee can actually only switch the terminal on or off using the power button.

And indeed, via the management, only his application is assigned to the respective worker monitor and started as a full screen in kiosk mode. Even if a resourceful user would manage to
would manage to quit the application, he would not find any other icons on the desktop. And applications to pass the time, such as Solitaire or Minesweeper, simply do not exist.