“For me, the challenge of the profession of software developer is not in working with the latest technologies, but in translating a process into software.” That’s the reason why he feels so at home in ICT Group’s Water & Infra business unit.
Dolf is currently working as technical project lead on the replacement of the automation of the water treatment installations of the Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier. This district water board protects the part of North Holland above the North Sea Canal against water and drought, ensures safe waterways and purifies waste water. The water treatment plants play an important role in the latter.
Security by Design
"The water treatment plants were all designed at a time when not nearly as much was possible in the field of ICT as it is today," says Dolf. "In addition, much of the hardware used (PLC and associated IO modules) is obsolete." Reason enough to replace these and to modernise and standardise the software. "We are completely rewriting the software. We are making the systems much more standardised than they were, which makes them more maintainable. By using an in-house developed software generation tool, the repetitive programming work is taken out of our hands. This allows us to focus on the fun programming work. In addition, we pay a lot of attention to cybersecurity, because today's water treatment plants have an Internet connection to enable remote management and for various links to third-party information systems. This was not the case when they were designed. Obviously, we have to prevent hackers from outside from breaking into the operating software and disrupting the systems. That is why we work according to the principles of Security by Design."
The great thing about this company is that you can have a lot of influence on where you end up.
Dolf describes his role as technical project leader as a cooperating foreman. “I create the design for the software, liaise with the customer, manage the development team and maintain contacts with our colleagues from Electrical Engineering & Instrumentation (E&I), who are responsible for replacing the control cabinets. In addition, I am co-writing the new software. I like this combination role. By remaining part of the development team I keep in touch with the profession, which allows me to make a much better translation into a future-oriented software platform.”
The team uses the ABB Ability System 800xA as a development platform. “This technology is developing less rapidly than modern programming languages that are used to build solutions such as web applications”, says Dolf. “And this makes sense, as you don’t want to adjust or update a water treatment plant every three months. The challenge in our profession lies much more in getting to know your client’s systems, and making the translation into software. That’s the part of my job that I like best.”
A different project every few years
Dolf has been working at ICT Group for years and hopes to stay there for a long time. “I work in the project section and for me this means that I can work on a new project every few years. The nice thing about this company is that you can exert a lot of influence on where you end up. At times I’m also involved in the process of writing replies to tenders by providing input, so I know very well what’s in the pipeline. If something comes along that I think is really cool, I always let people know. As a result, chances are that they will ask me for that project.
Because you have plenty of opportunities for influencing the direction of projects you will be involved in, you actually have your career in your own hands at ICT Group.
The project at the water board is nearing its final phase. The software standard has been completed, and now we’re in the roll-out phase. The majority of all fifteen water treatment plants have been converted, so the project is expected to be fully completed during the second half of 2022.
For the coming year, there are another two interesting projects within the HHNK project: Automating a new wastewater treatment plant based on Nereda technology (batch-purifying wastewater) and automating a new test environment, in which the already purified wastewater receives various post-treatments so that it can be used as cooling water for server parks. Dolf: “This is something I really like because they are really nice new innovative aspects. ” As so often in his profession, it’s all about learning by doing.” If you are eager to learn and you are fascinated by how large systems work in the domain of water and infrastructure, you will get your money’s worth in this work.”