Software conversion made easy
As the EXTER/E1000 operator panels from Beijer Electronics reach end-of-life after more than a decade of solid performance, reliability and ease of use, we look at how customers’ existing applications can be converted smoothly to the new iX visualization software and the new generation of X2 series HMI’s.
Product Owner iX, Henrik Oskarsson, and Sales Manager Robert Sarmon explain how the conversion process has been going.
Product Owner iX, Henrik Oskarsson
Why are the EXTER/E1000 panels no longer being produced?
Robert Sarmon (RS): I’ve worked at Beijer Electronics for more than 20 years, so I was here when the EXTER series was introduced in 2004. They are an excellent, durable hardware but key components were becoming difficult to source and the technical risk of maintaining the EXTER/E1000 product platform was too large. EOL was announced on 1st January 2018 and the range will be officially out of production from the beginning of 2019.
Henrik Oskarsson (HO): Clearly, our customers want to continue using panels they have designed and developed using the old E-Designer visualization software. To ensure this is possible, we have developed a tool to convert those legacy projects to our next generation iX developer software and X2 series HMI’s.
What can customers expect from the conversion tool?
HO: The conversion tool automatically converts projects designed in E-Designer to iX, saving significant engineering efforts and time. The tool is flexible and supports the vast majority of projects for Beijer Electronics customers in diverse industries. There are still some manual elements in certain cases, but hopefully our customers will be pleased to see that to the most part, they can pick up from where they left of with their applications when upgrading their panels.
Typically, the initial conversion is done in just a few minutes and adding a bit of fine-tuning the downtime on factory floors is limited. By re-using existing applications, our customers will save time, resources and money.
What has the reaction being from customers?
RS: I work with a lot of customers in the marine industry in Norway. They need their panels to be long-lasting and durable as they want their ships to operate 24/7 without having to regularly replace component parts. The scale of some of these jobs is vast: 400 screens sometimes – with smaller or larger differences on 5000 running installations. It was essential to give these customers the opportunity to upgrade their software without major overhauls every time. Even if a project was designed 10-15 years ago, they can simply convert their application to iX and have that same machine running on the technology of today. That’s an extremely powerful message to give to our customers.
This tool has not only pleased our customers, but also our own Field Application Engineers, as it reduces the amount of time they are trouble-shooting and performing complex support. An example from a FAE in the UK reported the tool helped a customer in the food and beverage sector save up to 90% of planned redevelopment time. The numbers speak for themselves.
What have been some of the challenges in this process?
HO: To ensure we are covering all the potential scenarios our customers might be facing we have done extensive testing and quality assurance. It has been an iterative process but an instructive one. There is a lot of internal knowledge within our organization, and we have had access to a diverse range of customer projects to help us check our conversion algorithms are working. Using real data helped scope the project and prioritize which features to focus on.
Sales Manager Robert Sarmon
RS: Again, with some of these customers it is a matter of scale. From a sales point of view, we have had to reassure customers who might have several thousand units of the old hardware. Although they understand EOL on legacy products is inevitable, they were extremely worried there might not be an easy conversion solution and that they would have to upgrade everything manually. Now they are happy they can move on with the Beijer Electronics products they have been using for many years.
What support can customers expect as they move to the new software?
HO: Luckily our support network of field application engineers, online helpdesk and our product experts are perfectly suited to help customers through this process. On top of this we are running live webinars that people can sign up to via our website, providing information on our conversion strategy. For those wishing to drill even deeper, they will find supporting documentation including tips and tricks before, during and after the conversion process on our web site. Ideally, we want to help customers help themselves. This tool is designed to make the complex simple, after all, our ambition is to make it easy to understand and implement. I’m pleased to say that, so far, our customers seem very happy with it!