"Innovations give the future a future" is how Quadbeck-Seeger, professor of chemistry and recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit, once put it in a nutshell. Not least for this reason, AUCOTEC's customers take constant innovations in their plants, systems and other services for granted. It is no different at AUCOTEC, the company lives and grows through innovation. The development team is continuously working on new features, tools and other enhancements to the Engineering Base (EB) software platform, which, with its flexibility, openness and data-centric principle, is not only considered particularly forward looking, but also future-proof. The new approach to providing fresh features and security updates is also forward-looking: in structured small "bites" with reliable, short intervals.
Up to now, customers have not been able to benefit immediately from certain innovations for organizational reasons, even though they have already been developed. For example, if the release date for the next version was not yet due or other features required special capacities. This is a hindrance, for example, for companies that are in the implementation phase of EB and – with the target date in mind – need to prepare their data and workflows for go-live.
Productive and innovative!
So that these customers no longer have to wait for the next release or a customized patch, AUCOTEC's Research & Development (R&D) team has now developed a new concept based on an annual full version release and two selectable release channels. On the one hand, it accelerates the development and release of new features, on the other hand, it enables regular, predictable "Monthly Updates" that ensure the smooth productive operation of EB. "The decision on how customers want to be supplied with new functions and updates in the future depends largely on whether they are already developing projects with EB in their productive day-to-day business or are just introducing the platform," says Eike Michel, Director R&D and Operations at AUCOTEC. If customers receive innovative functions during EB's implementation phase, which can take several quarters in globally operating companies, they are able to include them in the workflow concept right away and prepare the manuals promptly.
For these customers, Michel therefore proposes the so-called pre-releases (PR): "Let's assume that the Annual Release (AR) EB 2022 is currently released. Then they work with the PR 2023 of the 'Innovation Channel'.” Every two to three months, the newly developed and released functions or parts of new features as well as any bug fixes are automatically available there. "All data created with this version, which can also already be used productively, is secure. The next AR 2023 can definitely work with it,” emphasizes the R&D expert. However, it would not be possible to go back to AR 2022 with this data. "But with the PRs, new functions customers really long for, can be presented, tested and used at an early stage. We don't just promise, we show you promptly how it's done and deliver promptly,” says Eike Michel.
Update more predictably
For customers who are not urgently waiting for new features, the AR of the "Conservative Channel" usually makes more sense. They work with the last released EB version and receive pure security updates reliably and predictably at shorter intervals with the "Monthly Updates", which can be installed as required. "They are considerably easier to import than our earlier patches, some of which contained new functions and were therefore able to influence the workflow and data structures," says Michel. In addition, the exchange between customers and suppliers is significantly facilitated. If a supplier has only installed patch 4, but the operator has already installed patch 5, then data exchange was not necessarily possible earlier. This is now changing with the strict separation of monthly updates from pre-releases with new features. As of now, the data from all MU phases are compatible with each other. A release of this "Conservative Channel" is therefore a guarantee for continuity in productive operation and thus also for the delivery promise of the engineering using it.
Regardless of which release type is used, everyone gains planning security, including AUCOTEC's development team. With less administrative work for update management and more time for testing, quality always benefits too.
"We have customers who opt for both scenarios," says the Head of Development. For example, one of them has set up a "sandbox" environment in which to test the new features. Others use both channels because their divisions are at different stages with EB. "We definitely recommend a separate environment for each channel," says Eike Michel. But whatever choice you make, innovation and the future are included.
These three variants can be found in the download area:
a) The installation package of the current AR,
b) the current monthly update, which is simply installed on the valid AR, and
c) the current PR version, which completely replaces the predecessor PR, i.e. is ready for exchange.