The Connected Enterprise keeps eye on safety, security

June 12, 2017

For all the advantages offered to manufacturers by The Connected Enterprise, none are more important than improved risk management and business continuity.

Internet of Things (IoT) technologies help executives secure assets, business systems, and employees. When problems arise, preventive actions occur immediately and long-term solutions are implemented — quickly and cost-effectively.

Enhance Security

In our experience, executives considering the an implementation of The Connected Enterprise sometimes worry that it will increase their company’s risk of cyberattack. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Why? Because at many manufacturers, legacy controls and sensors already deliver data to unprotected operations technologies (OT) — many of which don’t meet current Internet security protocols.

At best, these legacy systems often incorrectly capture and share data, leading to flawed operations information going to corporate offices, customers, stakeholders and regulators. At worst, these antiquated systems put information technology (IT) security at risk, threatening the very survival of the business.

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Even more problematic, as the use of hand-held devices in plants increases, so does the number of entry points for hackers. These malefactors can endanger not just corporate and customer data, but production processes as well — with the ability to remotely alter product specifications, shut down production, or worse.

Fortunately, more and more leaders are recognizing the ability of The Connected Enterprise to enhance security. A quarter of executives report that their companies’ IoT technologies will improve the security of business systems and information, while another 69 percent see no adverse effects. 

They know that applying standard Internet and Ethernet protocols like EtherNet/IP (CIP version) can help securely integrate operations data with the rest of the enterprise.

A typical first step is to assess and document problems with current devices and the OT/IT network, and then leverage more advanced technologies (e.g., state-of-the-art controls, business analytics systems, cloud-computing capabilities).

In other words, risk to your enterprise is increasing. The smart move is to mitigate those risks and take advantage of performance enhancements.

Help to Better Manage Safety

IoT technologies digitize the lean concept of jidoka — automation with a human touch — in ways that help to prevent improper operation and injury, while alerting management to problems and near-misses.

Self-aware equipment can monitor its own performance (e.g., vibrations, energy consumption, product variability, failure parameters) and signal maintenance staff before safety, compliance or asset problems arise.

In addition, with IoT-enabled networks, mobile-connected operators can take their human-machine interface (HMI) with them and make real-time adjustments to remote applications on equipment. Mobile terminals also are effective for machine setup and maintenance tasks, keeping employees a safe distance away from equipment.

These IoT safety investments are typically more than offset by operational cost decreases (e.g., lower insurance premiums, worker compensation costs, and maintenance costs) and longer equipment life within the plant.

Yet there may be even more benefit outside the plant, as embedded intelligence in products and packaging allows customers to track delivery and then usage. These capabilities help minimize potential for counterfeit goods, improve customer safety, reduce recalls and warranty costs, and delight customers with added value.

Security and safety are the foundations upon which The Connected Enterprise is built. Isn’t it time you laid the IoT cornerstone?

Download the full report: Highlights from Rockwell Automation 2017