Customer story

Case Study Protomation

Kickstart for Protomation: provisioning desktop applications faster with Azure DevOps

The situation

Protomation is a software development company who is designing Operator Training Simulators (OTS) for the process industry. Protomation software makes it possible to train process engineers to operate a factory. In the same way as a pilot is trained using a flight Simulator.

In factories software is often controlled by a Distributed Control system, a standalone system what is being used to control manage and verify processes. Protomation's OTS solutions must connect seamlessly with this software. For this reason, Protomation uses classic desktop applications instead of web applications to simulate the factory environment as real as possible.

Last year Protomation became part of Stamicarbon. A licenser of many factories in the fertilizer industry. Beside its own techniques, Stamicarbon provides the Protomation OTS-solutions.

The Challenge 

Nick van Ast, Manager of Software and IT at Protomation, says: “We have always worked on our software in the traditional way with a fairly small team. We used Git for version control, but we had not set up CI / CD. This made deploying a new version of Process Studio, the platform for our simulators, a time-consuming process.

Our team grew after the acquisition by Stamicarbon. We were able to do more releases because we developed faster. This created the desire and opportunity to professionalise our development street.

We are a Microsoft Silver Partner and a satisfied user of Visual Studio. In addition to various other Microsoft tooling. We got a very good impression of Azure DevOps by participating in Microsoft events. Subsequently, we participated in an Intercept Workshop to increase our knowledge on Azure DevOps. Thanks to this workshop and the consultancy possibilities, we decided that Intercept is the party for us to work with.”

The Solution

During a visit at the location in Sittard, we made an inventory together with Protomation’s development team of the current structure of the applications and the dependencies. Protomation uses desktop applications based on C ++, but the requirements for a C ++ application are different than for a .net application. To properly `design the desired environment, we invested a lot of time in this preliminary phase.

Subsequently, we made a planfor the technical migration. With this pragmatic approach we can plan the different projects to ensure that this is done in the correct order. Betabit was involved in the process-related matters; they investigated with Protomation the best way to work (together) in the new environment.

We divided the migration into several projects to get more support from the development team. Step by step we have transferred the entire development street to Azure DevOps,to keep the Protomation team during the process engaged.

Protomation wanted a kickstart. Fr this reason we deliberately kept the number of consultancy hours low and ensured that Protomation could start working on the environment very quickly.


The Results 

  • With the implementation of Azure DevOps the Protomation team can now deploy new versions automatically and faster. Protomation used to do this manually, preparing the software for deployment therefore consisted of quite a few steps that had to be gone through every time, what resulted in a more error-prone and time-consuming process.

  • In collaboration with Protomation, we explored the best way to apply Azure DevOps without creating friction for developers during the local development cycle.

  • Three Azure Pipelines have been delivered which ensures that the software can be build and packaged completely automatically.

  • We automated the most important elements during the kickstart. With Betabit we have ensured that Protomation can now work self-sufficient with Azure DevOps.
“With many IT consultancy companies you notice they create a lot of work for themselves. One of the strengths of Intercept is that they work transparently. The nature of the project was a kickstart. Intercept has proven to use its time very meaningfully and ensured that we could get started with Azure DevOps as quickly as possible and we stayed for that reason within budget. Intercept is a great organization to work with. Realistic, fast and delivers high quality.”
Nick van der Ast Manager of Software and IT at Protomation