Packard Labs – Bristol
You've heard the
phrase 'HP Invent'; this is where they do it.
HP Labs regularly produce a number of computationally-intensive console mode
(DOS box) programs that need to be run repeatedly with different input
data. The programs compute mathematical models that take a long time to
run, but are very important to HP's on-going research.
The engineers who
produce these programs needed a way to submit
the programs into a 'processing farm' so that
they could be run automatically and in parallel
in order to speed up the overall throughput.
Additionally, the engineers
required a way to monitor what was going on and
cancel running programs if necessary. Also, output
from the programs which had previously appeared
on screen would have to be captured.
An Access database file is used to record 'Jobs' that are required. A Delphi
user interface modelled on Explorer was provided so that a small number of
engineers (5 or so) could submit, monitor and control jobs executing on a large
'farm' (up to 300) of PCs.
Installed on each PC in
the 'farm' (normal user's PCs throughout HP Labs)
is a service application written in Delphi which
downloads programs and data to be run on the
user's PC during idle time. When each program
is complete, its captured output is placed back
into the Access database for the engineers to
view. In this way, it is possible to leverage
the power of hundreds of PCs without their users
being aware of any performance drain. As the
average PC spends more than 90% of its time idle,
this solution represents a huge increase in throughput
for this very important part of HP.
Flowmetering – Stroud Case Study 1
manufacture magnetic flowmeters ranging in
size from 6 to 2000mm in diameter. These meters
measure the flow of water (or oil, or beer
etc.) by measuring the effect that the moving
liquid has on the magnetic field generated
by the meter.
For these meters to be useful, it is vitally important that they are properly
calibrated. Danfoss have 5 "Calibration Rigs" on-site in Stroud ranging
in output from 3 to 1500 Litres-per-second. A solution was required that would
fully-automate these rigs under the control of a single PC per rig.
Essentially one huge robot, each rig is composed of a weighing machine, many
valves, laboratory counter, digital voltmeters, water pump and so on. many
different hardware interfaces have been employed such as GPIB, RS232, HART,
OPC to communicate with disparate devices using a number of industry-standard
and proprietory protocols. This is a large project, with approximately 30,000
lines of Delphi code written so far. 2 rigs have been commissioned so far,
with the remaining 3 to be completed by April 2003.
Healthcare – Luton
are the UK's leading manufacturer of hospital
bed systems, offering a comprehensive range
of products ranging from simple anti-bedsore
products to full-blown intensive care systems.
Additionally, Huntleigh have a sizeable rental
business covering both long and short-term
rental of their bed systems. Huntleigh Healthcare
are a global company, also having rental businesses
in the U.S., Australia and France.
Huntleigh's ageing rental invoicing system needed replacing. A much more comprehensive
system was specified, encompassing not only invoicing, but asset-tracking,
depot and laundry management and a high degree of integration with distributed
devices such as PDAs.
MultiSoft UK have provided Informix development and UNIX C development skills
and advice regarding methodologies. Many technologies have been employed such
as MSMQ, Web Services, COM, DCOM and SQL Server Merge Replication. MultiSoftUK
have written UNIX C programs that can post messages into MSMQ on Windows 2000
Servers. Such cross-platform integration essential in real-world systems, but
can very often be the most difficult to achieve. MultiSoftUK's experience at
both UNIX and Windows development makes it the ideal choice for this kind of
In addition, the Huntleigh
Rentals system is a true global system, being
both multi-language and multi-timezone on each
client. An on-going project in four phases,
phase 1 went live in April 2002 and phase 2
went live in February 2003.
Flowmetering – Stroud Case Study 2
Referred to by Danfoss personnel as 'T' Factory, they have instituted an assemble
to order manufacturing system that requires warehouse staff to complete
the customer's order from sub assemblies kept in stock. Software was required
to instruct warehouse personnel on which assemblies should be combined
to complete a customer's order. Additionally, documentation and packaging
labels needed to be printed and the serial numbers of the assemblies used
allocated to the customer's order for traceability.
As Danfoss's main manufacturing and planning is handled by SAP, MultiSoftUK
had to work closely with Danfoss staff to achieve the proper level of integration
required. Once the SAP data was made available, MS SQL Server was used to store
details of uncompleted production orders, minimal bills of materials, assembly
stock levels and assembly serial numbers. A Delphi application was written
to allow the warehouse staff to 'Complete a Production Order' by simply nominating
which assemblies were being allocated to it from a drop-down list. Upon marking
the Production Order as complete, all documentation and packaging labels were
printed out using Crystal Reports. Completed order data is then loaded back
into SAP nightly. As a result, Danfoss were able to significantly stream-line
their production facility, reduce customer lead times and complete the development
of the software with no customisation of SAP itself thus keeping project costs
Postaweb – Bristol
Marketing Systems is a Bristol-based Bill Posting
company with satellite branches all over the
south east. In addition, Postaweb are the producers
of the Postaweb online Bill Posting verification
system that is used by a number (approx 18
so far) Bill Posting companies country-wide.
Due to the distributed nature of Postaweb's business (a central database in
Bristol and 21 satellites) a solution was required that properly implemented
an n-tier distributed system.
Leveraging Borland's 'DataSnap' distributed technology, MultiSoftUK have produced
a set of Client and Middle-Tier applications that allow Postaweb to manage
their distributed data effectively. The whole system is run through a web-based
application server with an Interbase 6 database tier.