Attack risk at its root: Your automation infrastructure

By Sujeet Chand

Maximizing productivity and minimizing risk are the yin and yang of the industrial world—forces that must remain in harmony for optimal business performance. That is particularly true in process industries, where managing risk for both people and brand is tantamount.

Today’s leading industrial producers are increasingly taking advantage of new technologies and the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to help manage risk at its root: industrial automation infrastructure.

Managing automation-infrastructure risk requires a commitment to four areas:

1. Equipment obsolescence: Modernizing production systems minimizes unplanned downtime and maximizes overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

2. Quality: Harnessing the power of data can improve quality management and help with adherence to existing and emerging government regulations.

3. Safety: Addressing safety in three crucial areas—culture, compliance, and capital—has been shown to help best-in-class organizations lower safety incidents while improving operational performance.

4. Security: Embracing a comprehensive security approach for interconnected facilities and enterprises helps protect people, intellectual property, and more.

Many organizations rely on control systems and other production hardware and software that are near or past obsolescence. Threats posed by outdated equipment extend well beyond downtime and include falling short of today’s regulations and standards and potentially harming workers, the environment, and product quality.

An installed-base evaluation identifies key operational weak links to recognize obsolescent elements and determine strategies based on return on investment. For example, a software inventory can identify incompatibilities between firmware and software versions.

Quality: Put data to work

A worldwide focus on smart manufacturing to connect the plant floor to the enterprise is driving the convergence of IT and OT. A single, converged network infrastructure enables end-to-end, enterprise-wide connectivity and secure, real-time information sharing.

A converged network infrastructure allows access to data from production equipment, smart devices, and the supply chain. With this visibility into operations, industrial producers can better understand and address their most pressing risk areas. For instance, data from a single IT and OT network can identify processes or raw materials that lead to quality issues and reveal where injuries and safety downtime events occur in operations.

Using manufacturing execution system software to integrate quality management and business analytics with production data can be crucial for meeting regulatory requirements and reporting. Replacing manual data collection with automated systems reduces the risk of human error, thus helping to mitigate quality issues and product recalls.

Safety: Address the three “Cs”

Best-in-class industrial producers—defined as the top 20 percent of aggregate performance scorers—share a common set of core safety pillars:

  • A strong culture that sets high standards and provides incentives for behavior that contributes to operational safety
  • Compliance with safety policies and procedures
  • Capital investment in contemporary technologies that integrate standards and safety control into one system

A study by Aberdeen Group found that best-in-class industrial producers achieve 5–7 percent higher OEE and 2–4 percent less unscheduled downtime than average performers. Top-ranked performers also have far fewer workplace accidents (one in 2,000 employees) compared to average performers (one in 111 employees).

Security: Adopt a defense-in-depth strategy

Security requirements are expanding with the advent of smart manufacturing and connected enterprises. More connections create more security risks, be they physical or digital, internal or external, malicious or unintentional.

Protecting people, property, and proprietary information requires a comprehensive approach to industrial security. A security assessment is the logical first step in establishing that program, including software, networks, the control system, policies, procedures, and employee behaviors. Automation security specialists can also identify mitigation techniques needed to bring process facilities to acceptable risk levels.

Managing risk throughout the industrial automation infrastructure is key to driving positive business results. By modernizing production systems, industrial companies can maximize their efforts throughout the enterprise and be proactive about all facets of risk management that affect people, brand, and business performance.

About the Author

Sujeet Chand Sujeet Chand, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Rockwell Automation, is responsible for the company’s global technology strategy and technical innovation. He has been instrumental in driving business growth through next-generation product architecture and platforms, engineering best practices, global technology road maps, research and development, and technical standards. Chand leads the company’s global R&D and industrial standards development teams in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Reader Feedback

We want to hear from you! Please send us your comments and questions about this topic to InTechmagazine@isa.org.