Skip to main content

AWL makes global collaboration on 3D designs possible with Citrix

AWL provides robotics and automated welding solutions to the automotive and general manufacturing industry. The 700-employee business has grown quickly over the past five years to meet the global needs of its customers’ supply chains.

While international expansion enabled AWL to win single-supplier contracts with some of the world’s largest car makers, it also presented operational challenges. Engineering design work is done mostly from its Netherlands headquarters and the Czech Republic, while manufacturing takes place closer to customers’ sites in China, the U.S., and Mexico. Engineers would send a view-only file with the completed design to technicians and mechanics at the manufacturing sites.

“One of our biggest challenges was data synchronization,” says Senior Systems Engineer Rody Kossen. “When you have multiple locations and many people working on the same thing, how do you ensure everyone is working on the latest version? If an engineer altered a design, he might forget to tell China to update their version.”

AWL didn’t have any collaboration tools that allow sites to work together. Each site had a separate IT infrastructure, and IT management costs were high. Traveling staff needed a separate user account for each location.

Kossen resolved these issues by creating a single Citrix deployment. Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops with Citrix Hypervisor provide a virtual workspace with the required applications and computing resources for each of three user profiles: engineer, mechanic, and office worker. For engineers and mechanics, AWL uses NVIDIA virtual GPU software to provide the powerful 3D graphics needed for complex CAD designs. Citrix ADC provides load balancing in the Netherlands data center and in China, and Citrix SD-WAN ensures a stable and consistent user experience even over 9,000 km of MPLS cable.

“With Citrix graphics-accelerated workspaces, we’ve proved that 3D graphics over 9,000 km of long-haul WAN can be done,” Kossen says.

“UX is key. If the user isn’t happy, they won’t use the system.” 

AWL’s staff now have a single, global system with a single set of credentials to access designs and other files that are held securely in AWL’s Netherlands data center. There are no more problems with files getting out of sync.
Engineers and mechanics use Skype for Business to collaborate on designs.

“Our shop floor is now 90 percent digital. You won’t see any paper. We use low-cost, thin-client 3D viewers, and we don’t even need manuals,” Kossen says.

To provide a stable, consistent user experience for the 3D CAD applications in China, Kossen configured Citrix SD-WAN to prioritize network traffic for the virtualized CAD applications while scaling down other traffic, such as large file transfers or backups. Before Citrix SD-WAN was deployed, the action of one employee could impact the performance of other employees. With Citrix SD-WAN, session fairness was enforced, which ensured each employee would have adequate bandwidth, even when the network was congested.

“User experience is key,” Kossen says. “It doesn’t matter what your network traffic data tells you; if the user isn’t happy, they won’t use the system.”

10 people, a kitchen table, and Raspberry Pi 

“With Citrix, we can set up a new location really quickly,” Kossen says. “When we opened in Mexico, the building wasn’t ready, so our 10 staff worked from a colleague’s kitchen table.”

That same agility enables collaboration. Mechanics and engineers can work together on a project, sitting at any available terminals without worrying about applications or resources.

“We have almost no IT equipment in our remote locations. So, there’s almost no maintenance. You can just go to Amazon and buy a HDX-Ready Pi (Citrix Ready Workspace Hub). When you connect to the network, it’s configured automatically by our server. You order it, you plug it in, it blinks twice, and you’re up and running. It takes 10 seconds.”

Lower IT costs, too 

Kossen and a colleague manage AWL’s entire desktop estate for 700 staff from the company’s Netherlands data center. Data is held securely, and apps are always up-to-date with the latest versions and security patches.

“I did a large migration last week,” Kossen explains. “It took me just one hour to get our Citrix environment up and running with all the new versions of software, creating new user profiles with the correct icons, and so on. In just a few seconds, I created 50 desktops for our engineers. By contrast, I also needed to migrate 250 physical laptops, and that took 60 or 70 hours.”

When AWL started their Citrix project, Citrix Hypervisor was the only server product that could manage virtual GPUs (vGPUs). Citrix Hypervisor brings cost benefits, too, as Kossen explains:

“Citrix Hypervisor software comes free with Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops whereas other virtualization software can cost €10,000 per license. So, if I buy two servers, I can afford to buy a third, all including NVIDIA licenses, with the €20,000 I’ve saved on server licenses. That gives us greater capacity for the money.”

Looking ahead, Kossen wants to roll out the Citrix environment to AWL’s Netherlands headquarters, increasing flexibility and productivity for staff while reducing physical hardware.

Global collaboration with Citrix graphic-accelerated workspaces 

Citrix enables AWL to centralize their virtual desktops in the Netherlands, and provide secure remote access to as far as Mexico and China, empowering global collaboartion with graphic-accelerated workspaces.

“With Citrix graphics-accelerated workspaces, our staff can work from anywhere, anytime, on any device they choose and have consistent performance,” Kossen says.

Citrix empowers AWL to operate and expand in new ways, with the business agility to expand, seamlessly opening new offices globally and empowers AWL employees to work in new ways, collaborating globally with graphic-intensive applications on any device.

Improve VoIP Call Quality with Citrix SD-WAN

All of their users connect to business-critical applications like ERP, CAT software, product data management software and old files, servers and file servers from the remote offices via Citrix. Users also leverage Microsoft Skype for Business for collaboration which really benefits from Citrix SD-WAN because they can guarantee quality of service.

For example, if a user in a remote office is trying to send a large PowerPoint file over the connection while there is also a Skype for Business session going on, then Citrix SD-WAN’s quality of service engine is quite sophisticated and adjusts to prioritize the call over the file share.

Before Citrix SD-WAN and, especially when people were copying files or using other chat protocols, the audio quality was really, really bad and users noticed that the quality of the audio was changing during calls. Now with Citrix SD-WAN, they can duplicate packets to ensure that there is no packet loss and the quality of your audio is stable. This really makes sure that you have excellent call quality in Skype for Business.

Kossen further adds, "When I looked back in our Skype for Business reports and I saw that after the implementation of the Citrix SD-WAN and also with the Quality-of-Service and the duplicate [audio] packets that we went from a MOS score of three to a MOS score of more than four. So that really improved on how it was before and also the users are very happy with the call quality."

With Citrix graphics-accelerated workspaces, we’ve proved that 3D graphics over 9,000 km of long-haul WAN can be done
Rody Kossen
Senior Systems Engineer


Citrix Products