South African Breweries

South African Breweries SAB installs AVEVA InTouch Thin Clients to reduce operating costs and enhance overall data security.

South African Breweries

“In my opinion, the system’s most outstanding features include its support of a broad range of hardware such as touch panels and zero clients, its redundancy features and simple configuration as well as its terminal shadowing facility.”

Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, The South African Breweries (SAB)


  • To improve security of proprietary information detailing the brewery’s operations and recipes
  • To streamline application management
  • To reduce overall operating costs


  • Running multiple HMI applications under same service account was causing file conflicts
  • Batch server redundancy issues involved complicated terminal server setup
  • Back office applications on plant servers were conflicting with manufacturing operations


  • Thin clients deliver improved security since no software resides locally
  • Enhanced application management via redundant HMIs• Operating costs are reduced since updates can be done at one time with no need to reconfigure each standalone PC
  • Operating costs are reduced since updates can be done at one time with no need to reconfigure each standalone PC
  • Thin clients can be switched out in minutes decreasing downtime in the event of a client failure

AVEVA Thin Clients Brings Simplicity and Enhanced Data Security to the Manufacturing at South African Breweries

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – The mainframe approach to computing of the 1970s and 80s was the rage when they came online, but users quickly found flaws in the technology architecture that left companies open to security threats, catastrophic loss of critical data, as well as lack of flexibility.

With the birth of the PC, all was “right with the world” again -- well not exactly. The new PC design opened the door to several potential points of failure. When costly software and hardware maintenance costs are combined with the possibility of security breaches, the PC showed it wasn’t immune to system failures. Many companies in the industrial world quickly realised they wanted the best of both worlds – the benefits of both PCs and mainframes without their downsides. This resulted in the development of “thin clients” which are intelligent, local devices that communicate with a redundant array of servers.

Apart from security concerns, individual desktop systems require extensive configuration management to ensure they are operating the correct software version, and are not running unauthorised applications. Thin clients are immune from these issues and provide a cost-effective, low-maintenance, more secure and high data availability alternative. South African Breweries (SAB) immediately understood the benefit a thin-client solution would have on its brewery operations.

It was the exactly what the company needed to efficiently manufacture and deliver some of the world’s most popular beers. SAB chose to install a collection of Wonderware Thin Clients throughout its manufacturing environment, replacing its desktop-based SCADA machines, which would continue to host its array of AVEVA industrial automation software solutions.

“Our first objective was to improve security. With thin clients, users only have access to the applications they need. Since no data is stored locally, it eliminates the risk of unauthorised software installations. Another plus is that if a thin client is stolen, it has no hard drive that might contain sensitive software and proprietary information.”

- Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, SAB

Centralised Management and Deployment of Critical Applications

The next priority for SAB was to improve application management through the ability to set up image redundant HMIs, deploy applications rapidly while ensuring they are configured the same way, and enable rapid recovery from hardware failures.

“The centralised management and deployment of applications means that all software updates are consistent with one another, making the need to run from PC to PC to configure each one separately a thing of the past. In addition, should a thin client fail, it can be replaced and back online in a matter of minutes because no operating system, software or configuration is involved.”

- Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, SAB

The third objective was to reduce operational costs through less costly and frequent hardware replacements, reduced system management (25 clients to two servers), lower licensing costs associated with anti-virus software requirements, operating system maintenance, and reduced overall operational management. Another opportunity for cost reduction was that critical data no longer needed to be stored via redundant hardware systems. The use of thin clients made redundancy obsolete since they can be replaced instantaneously in the event of a hardware failure.

To achieve these goals, the system supports all existing manufacturing applications while being redundant and without any single point of failure for the plant. The Wonderware Thin Client servers provide that same reliability as the backend servers running a host of AVEVA software solutions which manages the brewery’s operations. In addition, the system is hosted locally onsite to prevent it from being dependent on a WAN connection which has the potential of going offline or being hacked by outsiders. The system configuration is simple and decentralised to allow each region to manage its own environment.

“From a security angle, access to critical areas of the server was protected from unauthorised user access, such as the C: drive, and the system integrates seamlessly into SAB’s existing active directory security model. We need to be able to assist operators rapidly, so the remote monitoring and control of user sessions were important requirements.”

- Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, SAB

Implementation of Wonderware Thin Clients With ACP ThinManager

The implementation of Wonderware Thin Clients running ACP ThinManager allowed for a locallyhosted solution that enabled the use of “zero clients,” which are client devices that require no configuration and have nothing stored on them locally. Since ACP ThinManager supports a very wide range of hardware, SAB could continue to use its existing enterprise hardware vendors, as well as existing industrial hardware including System Platform, Historian and InTouch HMI.

“Wonderware Thin Clients running ACP ThinManager provides our operators with a simple and intuitive user interface that can be easily managed by the onsite engineers without resorting to an application specialist. Since it’s supplied by AVEVA, this meant that if we encountered issues with our AVEVA software on the enterprise platform, then AVEVA support would be able to replicate the system issue.”

- Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, SAB

The implementation took only a few months and allowed for a side-by-side installation, which greatly reduced the risk involved with transitioning the entire enterprise. It also allowed for a gradual, smooth transition for the operators with machines which previously had multiple PCs, to a system with a single thin-client solution.

“After a week, all PCs were replaced with thin clients, however, the PCs were left in place. This was done just in case a major issue occurred and could enable our operators to quickly reconnect the PCs to the system, which would avoid any potential plant downtime.”

- Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, SAB

Testing and Re-testing of Thin Client Solution to Ensure Operability

The system was extensively tested before being going “live” in the plant. The applications were loaded onto the terminal servers, and the full system was configured as it would be when operating in full production mode. Once all 25 clients for the site were installed, they were then booted up and fully tested, which included simulating failures in various parts of the system which included both network and client failures, as well as client replacement procedures and the speed of bringing the plant back online.

The enterprise system is distributed over seven supervisory servers, each dedicated to a specific plant operation. These are connected using two redundant servers located in separate locations, where one automatically takes over if the other fails. The technology communication interface between the locations is guaranteed by a secure network of five hubs which receive data from the operations within each building.

“The system was implemented on the manufacturing network and allows for full remote control of operations.”

- Christopher Clark, Process Control Engineer, SAB

Delivering Benefits of PCs and Mainframes With a Thin Client

For SAB, thin clients deliver the benefits of both PCs and mainframes, but without the disadvantages of either. While PCs will always have their place as stand-alone, independent solutions, when it comes to complex, linked systems, there’s a strong case to be made for thin clients, especially in the industrial sector. With the robustness and absence of “moving parts” such as hard drives and individual software programs, combined with low maintenance, ease of replacement and security benefits, it’s easy to understand the growing popularity of thin client technology in the manufacturing industry.

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