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Shaping the digital transformation with Internet of Things

Most of us know the famous movie line – “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." This is a mysterious, almost romantic view of life, not knowing what comes next, with surprise being the only constant. Well, it's safe to say, we' re not in the movies. Such a scenario is not welcome in a manufacturing environment, quite the opposite. Not knowing what's happening on the production line, surprise defects and machines having breakdowns out of the blue, are not desirable situations. How do you go from mystery to complete awareness and capable of predicting what will happen in an industrial environment, this and much more in our next edition of “Under the Digital Hood” series.

Shaping the digital transformation with Internet of Things

Today, we have Internet of Things (IoT) in the spotlight and, who better to tell us about the benefits it brings to the digital transformation than our very own Senior Industrial IoT Architect – Catalin Batrinu. Enjoy the interview and let us know your thoughts!

Digital Hub: Hi Catalin! Tell me a bit about yourself and your role in the Digital hub.

Catalin Batrinu: I’ve joined Digital Hub in June 2019, attracted by the high potential that exists in Oerlikon in respect to the digitalization projects and Industry 4.0 program. Having 18 years of experience in embedded programming, telecommunication, full stack software development and cloud solution, along with many IoT projects completed around the globe, in this role I am like a child in a candy store.

DH: A child in a candy store ? I like that! Tell me a bit more about your position, how would you describe it?

CB: An IoT Architect needs to discuss with the business representatives and with the digitalization managers in order to define the IoT strategy of the company. An end-to-end IoT solution typically spans across a wide variety of technology areas, ranging from data collection sensors, equipment or appliances at the edge, all the way to integration with enterprise applications and systems.

Because an IoT solution has so many integrated components, from sensors, small computers, various transport layers, cloud storage and analytics, creating a versatile  IoT architecture is very important — especially here in Oerlikon where we are deploying multiple solutions to connect different types of equipment. In my role, I am responsible for defining the scope, architecting the solution and implementing it.

DH: Interesting to learn how many touch points you have across the organization. Must be challenging to navigate all these “waters”, so I am curious what are the skills that make an IIoT architect’s life easier?

CB: To be a good IIoT architect you need to have experience with a broad range of devices, from embedded ones, to PLC (the heart of our machines), to SoC (System on Chip) and to various telecommunication protocols, along with full stack programming, multi cloud services and databases.

Furthermore, embedded and industrial skills are required to be able to get the data from various PLCs using protocols like OPC-UA, MODBUS TCP, PROFINET or different sensors.  Telecommunication knowledge is necessary to choose the right protocol for secure transmission of the data or to choose which is the best protocol based on the importance of the data, to be able to choose a real time transmission protocol for real time data or a low overhead protocol on low power devices. Cloud knowledge is necessary to be able to choose the right cloud provider or solution, and to define the services that need to be run in the cloud to ensure the proper scaling for our platform.

For storing the data it is important to have database knowledge especially on the time series databases that we are using for data and noSQL databases for metadata.

DH: It seems you have a pretty busy working day ? what are the actual activities that you are involved in?

CB: Every day I am working on finding the right architecture for the projects that are in planning phase and in implementation, supervising the projects that are in the execution phase. All my work is close to the colleagues from the Oerlikon business units, since we need to align on multiple aspects of collecting data, selecting machine type, protocol and the outcomes of the data. Most recently, I’ve connected and collected data from Oerlikon Metco’s machines, from Oerlikon Balzers coating process and 3rd party machines from Pillar UPSs, and transported them in our cloud solution.

In parallel, I am working on creating a Digital Garage in the Digital Hub, where everyone from any business unit can come and test various technologies, from retrieving data from PLC and sensors, to blockchain solutions, augmented reality and controlling robots. I encourage all my Oerlikon colleagues who have an idea to contact us and come to the Digital Hub to validate it.

DH: So, what are the goals and deliverables of your role?

CB: My goal is to be able to create and implement solutions for Oerlikon’s business units, allowing them to focus on their business core. Also, to work together with them so we can create additional services for the business units and for their customers. It is important to handle all the phases of the projects and to be involved from the incipient phase in order to align on the same technologies across the entire Oerlikon.

After all our machines are connected to cloud and we have enough data, the next step is to give the collected data a meaning by analyzing the data and creating machine learning models that need to be deployed as closest as possible to the source of the data. In this way, we would be able to track down any anomaly in near real time and offer additional services, such as predictive maintenance.

DH: Would it be fair to say the IoT goals are closely connected to the actual business goals of our company? Can you give us more details on the link between them?

CB: We need to support our clients in their digitalization and Industry 4.0 programs, by enhancing our products with cloud connectivity  and enabling them to have a better understanding of our machines. Many other things can be done starting from this connectivity: working with the data produced by our machines, comparing their productivity and opening the way to predictive maintenance or different KPIs; integrating our machines into their production line and creating a unified production chain where all machines are talking to each other, allowing them to autonomously adapt certain parameters based on what is happening in the chain. For example, adapting the heating time based on the information received from a cleaning machine.

DH: What would you say are the potential benefits that an IIoT Architect role could bring to the manufacturing industry and Oerlikon’s business?

CB: Nowadays we are producing more and more data, so it is important to get, store, analyze this data and produce new business cases, new services that we and our customers can benefit from. Having data we can create services that were not possible in the past, like predictive quality for coating, predictive maintenance and automated parts ordering. Imagine the time and cost savings when a machine can order parts that are identified as faulty or may become faulty in the near future. Or when remote diagnose and assistance can be done, together process traceability and many others. And this is where the IIoT Architect role comes to play a vital part.

DH: Before we wrap up this interview, I want to ask you one last thing. Digital transformation – how does your role contribute to this important journey of our company?

CB: We have developed a program named Blind2Vision, where we connect our machines to the cloud and all the data from them will be stored in a data lake. We now have digital dashboards, we have the possibility to calculate KPIs for machines and display them in our location, but we need to be even more efficient, we need to create a data driven approach for our company and IIoT plays a big role to that. I am glad that Oerlikon has embarked on this digitalization program, and that I’ve found great plans and great ambitions across all the business units. But at the end of the day, the most important aspect is the people you work with, and I am happy to say we have a great team here, full of open minded, digital oriented people.

DH: Catalin, thank you so much for your time today!

Hope you enjoyed our second edition of “Under the Digital Hood”. In the upcoming interviews, we will explore further sides of the digital transformation and the tools that power it. You will get to meet more and more of our experts and learn how their role is advancing the digital transformation of our company and customers.

If you want to read again the first edition Under the Digital Hood: Cracking the Secret Code of Data Science, you can find it here.

If you have questions that require an answer in these areas, feel free to send them to us via our Linkedin channel. And do let us know your thoughts and comments about this edition, we would love to have a conversation.

Until the next time, may the digital force be with you all!

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