Looking past the hype: opportunities and challenges of Industry 4.0
Although some market pundits have demoted Industry 4.0 to buzzword status, they tend to overlook the robust, industry-wide initiatives to implement the technology in networked production environments. In fact, the work to solve the technical challenges continues at scale because the need -- and the opportunity -- to improve manufacturing productivity demands it.
In short, networked production based on the Industry 4.0 concept enables fast, automatic data exchange along the entire value chain. Compared to "classic" industrial production, this offers multiple advantages:
- Individual processes and process steps can be better coordinated to eliminate or reduce production downtime and increase overall performance.
- Inventory management can be optimized as ERP systems continuously monitor supplies and automatically order replenishments to minimize on-hand storage needs.
- Networked machines and devices can be more easily managed to increase production capacity at each facility.
- Equipment errors and performance issues can be identified and remediated much more quickly using integrated sensors.
- Data from networked devices can be used to analyze and anticipate faults and avoid unplanned downtime.
Of course, the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0 bring new challenges:
- Networked and internet connected machines increase the risk of cyberattacks. In addition to sabotage and undetected quality problems, there’s a greater risk of espionage, loss of intellectual property, financial liability and lasting damage to the company’s reputation.
- Networking increases infrastructure complexity with more end devices and connections to monitor and manage. Manually maintaining accurate inventories of networked hardware and software is costly and error-prone. Monitoring real-time device status and maintaining network transparency becomes virtually impossible without automation.
Ensuring security and network manageability while realizing the advantages of Industry 4.0 requires appropriate measures. One approach is defined in the international IEC62443 series of standards, which offers a comprehensive "Defense in Depth" strategy.
The concept can be explained most easily by picturing a medieval castle. The first exterior lines of defense are the moat and castle wall. Within the castle there are there are independent, segmented courtyards, which would require an attacker to conquer one before reaching the next. In the center is the citadel or keep where the defenders can entrench, erect obstacles and force door-to-door fighting as a last resort.
Applied to a production network, Defense in Depth provides a staggered, multi-layered architecture that forces an attacker to overcome multiple lines of defense including:
- Human-factor security awareness with clear IT security guidelines, continuous employee training and review of work processes to eliminate weak points.
- Strict separation of office IT and production networks to contain the scope and impact of an attack.
- Successively smaller segmentation of the network to make it more difficult for intruders to access devices.
Endpoint protection that continuously monitors production devices for specific software or firmware vulnerabilities. Network inventory data can be used to identify affected devices, assess the severity of each vulnerability, prioritize deployment of patches and updates, and enact other preventative measures. For example, you can configure individual endpoints to prevent access to unauthorized and possibly compromised USB drives. Automated network backup of individual endpoints also makes it possible to restore systems quickly in the event of errors, problematic patches and updates, and other incidents.
Absolute security is impossible in daily living. That’s especially true in our digital lives at home and at work. But we can realize the much-needed benefits of Industry 4.0 production networks by managing cybersecurity risks with awareness and reasonable – and comparatively simple - security measures. The risk of a successful attack on a production environment is considerably reduced just by making the company a harder and less lucrative target. Balancing the challenges and opportunities makes it possible to implement of Industry 4.0 technology with greater confidence to improve production availability and manufacturing efficiency.