Adaptive Showing at ATME 2004, Greenville USA [10 June 2004]  
Plant Explorer Upgraded To DotNet [01 June 2004]  
ITMA Still Getting Rave Reviews [05 Jan 2004]  
Big Adaptive Chemical Dispenser Increases Production by 20% [05 January 2004]  
Plant Explorer Upgraded To DotNet

1st June 2004
By Adaptive Staff Writer

HALIFAX, UK - The flagship plant control and supervisory system from Adaptive, previously known as Plant Explorer, has now completed successful dyehouse trials, and is proving a big hit. The system, now known as Plant Explorer DotNet, boasts new levels of features and reliability, but still maintains compatibility with the large existing user-base served by previous versions of Plant Explorer and the Beacon 2800 system.

DotNet is also the name of the award-winning Microsoft Windows platform that has become the first choice for new developments on PCs, and this is no coincidence since Plant Explorer now uses all the power and latest technology of this Microsoft innovation.

We asked David Tindale, Director of System Research at Adaptive, what he thought this would mean to Adaptive Customers who might be contemplating the upgrade.

SW: "Plant Explorer is a system that is at the heart of dyehouse production for customers. What do you think will be the most obvious benefits for an existing customer of moving on to the new DotNet version ?"

David Tindale: "Well that's rather a broad question, and perhaps before answering that, it might be helpful just to backtrack for a moment and remind ourselves of the Plant Explorer history. Back in the very early days of PCs, the original 2800 system was a market-leader because of advanced features like job scheduling and extensive history storage not normally seen in the industry. In one way, nothing much has changed since those days, whereas in another way everything has changed",

SW: "Do you mean that the basic functions of a plant supervisory system haven't changed much since then ?"

David Tindale: "What we saw coming along at that time was a greater emphasis on integration with other automatic systems like dispensing, and also the need for multiple terminals. And we put those features in. But all the time, technology is moving on in parallel and it wasn't long before Windows came out."

SW: "And this was all still on the 2800 platform ?"

David Tindale: "Yes, the move to Windows was the last big change to the system that we were involved with on the 2800. It certainly was a high-water mark at the time in a lot of ways, and you know what was interesting about it was that the users in the dyehouse seem to have no problems at all getting used to clicking with a mouse and so on - some people had worried that using Windows might be too hard. Well we needn't have worried, and looking back now with Windows everywhere, it seems a funny thing to even worry about."

SW: "But then came the first versions of Plant Explorer ?"

David Tindale: "Yes, along with everything else ! This was the time when Adaptive the company was being set-up, and Mike (Lynch ed.) and I had a lot on our plates ! And of course Plant Explorer had to be built completely from scratch at that time. The other interesting thing going on then was that the new technology emphasis we were offering at Adaptive was based around the machine controllers changing from proprietary hardware to the PC platform, which was itself a big step forward. It didn't bring too many new features to Plant Explorer though, and so progress wasn't as dramatic on Plant Explorer as it had been up until then."

SW: "What about using PCs as controllers ? How was that ?"

David Tindale: "Amazingly reliable, once the system was perfected. And it meant that a lot of the host system features could be put onto the controllers as well - histories, schedules, etc. The other thing it got us into, though, was having to be compatible with different kinds of controllers - Beacons, APC's, and so on."

SW: "Right"

David Tindale: "At the moment we're just adding support for Gaston Controllers.... A controller is a controller really. And sometimes we can make it seem more powerful than it really is, by connecting a Plant Explorer
to it."

SW: "And web-pages ?"

David Tindale: "Yes, that's a useful additional feature - but getting software to install and work first time across the 5 or 10 PC's you typically find pre-existing in a plant is an interesting challenge. All different versions of Windows, with various service packs and programs installed. Solving that is one of the things that DotNet does for us ?"

SW: "So what is DotNet ? The phrase may be vaguely familiar to some of our readers."

David Tindale: "Put simply, it's a big upgrade to Windows to make writing Windows programs easier and more productive. Which is good for users too, of course, when these great new programs come along. For Adaptive, it came at a great time, because, for instance, it solves that "installation onto various computers" problem straight out of the box. It also speeds up our development cycles, and comes with some great fault-finding and system-monitoring tools."

SW: "For a 24x7 factory"

David Tindale: "I certainly try not to forget that the ultimate point of all this great technology is first and foremost to get more quality production out of a plant. We've got some great support people working for us, but they support Adaptive products that run for weeks, months, years at a time without a hiccup. It can be surprisingly hard to achieve those levels of reliability, with everything that can be thrown at a system."

SW: "So DotNet gives you extra reliability ?"

David Tindale: "Yes it does. And predicability. And the next path to the future to PC systems. Microsoft are a huge presence on PCs, and we think DotNet is one of their best ideas for a while. Plant Explorer will get slicker, faster, better features and even more reliable. And I think that's a great story for customers."

SW: "Thanks very much for your time, David"

David Tindale: "You're very welcome."


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