Bruynzeel Keukens speeds up operation with IGEL
Bruynzeel Keukens is the largest supplier of kitchens in the Benelux region. It produces kitchens under its own brand and sells them both in the business and the private market. Bruynzeel has approximately thirty shops In the Netherlands and Belgium, which can be distinguished into five large stores with a back office of their own, and a series of smaller shops. In addition, the kitchen producer has approximately thirty representatives who cater for the project market.
Bruynzeel employs a staff of approximately 640. 400 employees are involved in production, 120 work at the various administrative departments, and another 120 employees are active in sales.
The Bruynzeel shops used to be connected to the main office in Bergen op Zoom through an ISDN router network. Each store had a Novell server that provided special storage and backup facilities. All applications ran locally. As the hardware that was used at the shops threatened to become outdated, the company decided to enhance its infrastructure because of the expected server maintenance requirements and the risk of network outages at the shops. The most important question in this respect was whether the company should continue in the same vein or try a completely new approach with regard to its infrastructure.
When Bruynzeel Keukens integrated the automation activities at the Belgian offices into its Dutch IT organisation, the opportunity presented itself to modify the existing infrastructure. A connection to the central ERP application had to be implemented in a short amount of time. 'To be able to carry this out, we deployed Terminal Server 2000 at the Belgian office in 2004. When that worked to full satisfaction, we also wanted to provide the back offices of our sizeable Dutch branches with access to ERP application, MBI Factory Network so, in 2005, we equipped these stores with VPNs and configured the existing desktops with Terminal Ser- ver access', comments Machiel Prins, the IT Manager responsible for the strategic and operational collaboration between the Bruynzeel operations and its IT. In this context, the Automation department forms the central point of contact within the organisation for maintenance, renovation and improvement activities.
By now, all stores have been connected to the main office using a VPN connection. The available bandwidth is dependent on the number of staff members at the shops. Only a modest amount of bandwidth is available for each staff member.
'As a result of an agreement with our provider, we are able to scale up the bandwidth for each branch. However, up until now this hasn’t really seemed necessary, as the staff members at the branches who are part of the server-based environment do fine with the bandwidth at their disposal. In the past, that was another story: the local use of Outlook alone had a considerable impact on the performance of the external network!'
The right tools
Besides the ERP application, the back offices were also provided with access to other applications in the Windows Terminal Server environment. In the first instance, the clients involved were desktop PCs. The applications (Microsoft Office, ERP) were distributed on the basis of a server-based model rather than being installed on desktop PCs individually. In terms of management and functionality, this model found favour with the management of Bruynzeel Keukens. The desktop PCs ended up being used in most workspaces purely as RDP clients, and so the replacability, stability and the ease of management of a solution with actual thin clients were tested at a number of sites.
'For this purpose we evaluated three types of thin clients from different vendors. We used an elaborate procedure to evaluate the user experience and track the performance of the Microsoft Terminal Servers when used intensively. We also seriously considered the peripheral devices (USB keys, printers) that users should be able to work with from a security and network performance point of view'. Particularly as a result of its pricing and management features, IGEL was singled out as the best product, says Prins.
The project was subsequently implemented at Bruynzeel Keukens by its own IT staff, comments Prins. 'Prior to the implementation, Tweco-IT came on site for a day to finetune the products and to provide tips concerning the use of the IGEL thin clients. Their help has proved invaluable'. 80 Linux-based clients were deployed during the project, which covered 25 offices in the Netherlands and Belgium. Because Bruynzeel Keukens’ IT department serves as helpdesk for the entire organisation, this provided a good opportunity for all its members to visit the shops. Two thirds of the staff members at the shops are now using thin clients. The remaining staff uses Windows XP-based desktop PCs.
IGEL thin clients find favour with Bruynzeel Keukens
Bruynzeel Keukens also uses IGEL’s Remote Management Suite. 'This allows us to view the status of each thin client in the network. We can configure and upgrade them remotely, while the management suite enables us to assign profiles from a remote location. We are now planning to install a company screensaver on each thin client using the Remote Management Suite.' In terms of replacement and expansion of the Microsoft Terminal Servers, the model was already cost-effective for Bruynzeel, tells Prins. From the users’ point of view, it takes much less time to start up their computers and create or close a connection than is the case with desktop PCs. Thin clients are much smaller and provide the shops with a more aesthetically pleasing effect. An additional advantage is that the IGEL thin clients produce much less heat and noise than traditional desktop PCs. As a result of the uniform rollout, the shops now have a much better appearance, Prins notes. As a result of the increased control he is offered over the ‘endpoint devices’, he is spending considerably less time upgrading the devices. 'The central management model is much easier to implement using IGEL thin clients than used to be the case with thin PCs.' Moreover, the time he used to spend in getting the desktops up and running again can now be spent on other tasks.
'The stable environment also instils confidence in the staff members at the shops. They no longer get frustrated by systems that crash while they are conversing with a customer. It has taken us quite a while to configure the thin clients in such a way that they provided optimal performance. During the first weeks we suffered from several connection glitches. We have invested a lot of energy analysing the problem and improving matters. Currently everything is working to our full satisfaction.' At Bruynzeel Keukens, all applications are now running centrally on Microsoft Terminal Server within a Windows Server 2003 environment. This includes Outlook, Office XP, Internet E xplorer and the specialised ERP suite MBI Factory Network.
Increased productivity with IGEL
'There are plans at Bruynzeel Keukens to deploy the thin clients for a further automation of simple office environments. We are also investigating the possibility of migrating to a server-based architecture within our production environment. Currently we are trying to win support for this project by showing the organisation how it works'.