A Word About Creating Reliable R/C Attractions

Doug Williamson
President, Thola Productions

About designing and manufacturing the equipment...

We've operated remote control attractions for 14 years. After an exhaustive study, we've designed this completely new boat system to answer the many issues that operators such as ourselves have had to deal with over the years. "Necessity is the mother of invention" as they say - re-invention is what we've done.

Our newly released equipment is a complete departure from the norm...from the aesthetics, to mechanical dependability, to the use of computerized electronics that allow digital changes and adjustments to the system...including an entire computerized management system. We took our 14 years of experience in the use of commercially available boat and car systems and listed all the pitfalls and problem areas we could think of. Then we created a wish list...sort of a dream of what it would be like to operate remote control attractions in a perfect world. Then we designed our new system. Most of the ideas, changes and improvements won't even be listed on these pages...but they're in there. If you're the type of person who is interested in that sort of thing, give us a call. We'll be glad to bore you to tears talking about our work!

We design and manufacture the Attraction to operate ourselves, not to sell to others. It is in our own enlightened self-interest, therefore, to create the most dependable equipment possible. Think about it - to do anything less would be to set ourselves up to suffer constant problems, downtime and loss of revenue. And sharing those problems with our location partners isn't our idea of good business.

Since its in our own best interest, any inherent "weak link" discovered in the system will be redesigned and replaced. After all the work we put into this new attraction, we're not about to just put band-aids on a weak link; we'll fix it at the source. It's one of the advantages we have by doing all this in-house.

From conceptual design to highly computerized electronics, working drawings, prototyping, tooling, production, installation, staffing, on-site technicians, and management of the attractions, we do it all in-house. You provide a good location, some water, and some decent lighting...we'll provide the rest. If you want to supply some of what we usually provide...attendants, money handling, etc., an even higher split can be yours. You tell us what you want.

Bob Phillpott
Systems Product Engineer, Thola Productions
President, Computerized Processes Unlimited

About computerization and electronics...

The primary focus of electronic design for all Thola Productions attractions is to maximize profits for the location owners and Thola.

In addition to ensuring quality and reliability of our equipment, redundancy is designed into our control and reporting systems, providing maximum availability of equipment, and security of data and audit trails.

Thola Productions has adopted an open-systems approach to control systems. The basic controller of our attractions is the Direct Logic 405 Series Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). Specifically, the DL440 CPU is used. In addition to providing all timing and control functions for the attraction, this PLC can simultaneously communicate with a Windows based operator interface, via the DirectSoft DDE.

To assure maximum "up-time" for the attraction, two separate PLCs control functions, maintenance records, and business reporting data. Half of the equipment is operated from each PLC. Battery back-up is used to protect critical data.

Maintenance and operations data is transferred via network to on-line personal computers located at the attendant's stand, the maintenance shop, and Thola's central business office.

Using password security, personnel attendance, time reporting, and income versus usage, a wide array of information is available for daily reports. Similarly, maintenance information is also available on a daily basis. Trends of this data can be graphed, providing longer term information for analysis by management personnel.

Once collected, operations data, or derivative reports, can be transferred from Windows to other operating systems as required, including location owner's Management Information Systems.

Bill Elgin
Operations Manager, Thola Productions

About managing a successful attraction...

Thola first opened their remote control attractions at Disneyland Hotel back in 1982. Disney's standards for attractions are some of the highest in the world and we had to learn how to implement procedures that would insure quality and reliability.

From Disney's point of view and certainly from ours, the quality of the attraction comes first. In the remote control world, it's common to see four or five stations out-of-service at an attraction that only has ten stations total. Besides lost revenue, it's a bad "show" and to Thola, that just isn't acceptable.

There are 34 stations in our attractions at the Disneyland Hotel, and you will rarely find more than one or two out-of-service. The reason's simple: besides our attendants and managers, we have a technician on site seven hours a day dedicated to the upkeep of the attractions. When one of the vehicles goes down, he's there to work on it immediately. When everything's working, he performs scheduled preventive maintenance and checks the performance levels of all the vehicles. If one of the vehicles falls below pre-determined standards, it's taken off-line and repaired. Attraction managers routinely play every vehicle to insure quality performance.

I have spent many years developing prodedures that strive towards having all the stations work 100% of the time. Until now, it wasn't technically possible. With our new equipment and its repetitive nature combined with computerization to implement proven procedures, we are going to be very close to 0% downtime.

Designed and Maintained by Bill Elgin. Copyright © 1995-96 Thola Productions. All rights reserved.