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Updating without disrupting production

13 May 2018

When a UK-based manufacturer of chilled and fresh food recognised that its flagship premium soup lines were becoming vulnerable to failure it set out to find a solution. 

Because the company’s XP legacy operating system was no longer being supported by hardware vendors it was no longer able to maintain or expand the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system and was also unable to carry out security updates. 
To make matters worse, obtaining the correct level of support for the system was proving very difficult, leaving it vulnerable to system failure. 

The company recognised that it urgently needed to replace its outdated system. However, due to its existing configuration, this would be a time consuming and complicated task, requiring additional support from in-house IT resource.

Reducing the risk
The priority was to address and reduce the immediate risk of computer failure, while operating within budgetary constraints. A pragmatic and targeted solution was essential to ensure objectives were met and project over-run was avoided. The company called in Astec Solutions to help it find the best solution.

The first step for Astec Solutions was to stabilise the system. The existing operating systems were virtualised to enable them to continue to run in the current configuration on modern server hardware, which came with a replacement guarantee. Next the non-industrial PCs were replaced with rugged thin-client workstations, which do not need to carry an operating system themselves.

The existing SCADA computer hardware was also replaced with a redundant, centralised virtual host, with links to the virtual clients at the appropriate plant locations. Removing the server from the working environment makes it much more stable, robust and reliable. 

If a shopfloor workstation fails it can simply be unplugged and replaced with a new unit from the store. Once it is confirmed that the IP address is correct, operations can be resumed.

Astec Solutions was able to deliver system virtualisation, replacement and commissioning – without disrupting production – by working overnight and at weekends, during scheduled downtime. The outcome of the project was that the food manufacturer now has a modern, stable and supportable system, increased flexibility and a greater level of redundancy and resilience. At the same time, its reliance on the IT department has been reduced and the company is now well placed to embark confidently on enhancements to its SCADA solution.

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