Packard Labs – Bristol
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
Flowmetering 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
Healthcare – Luton
Healthcare 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
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 development.
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
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
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.