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How can manufacturers ensure secure connections in the Industry 4.0

How can manufacturers ensure secure connections in the Industry 4.0



State of the Industry 4.0

With the rise of the Industry 4.0, there is an increasing need for manufacturing machines to be connected to the internet. In response to this need, industrial environments are undergoing profound digital transformation involving a rise of Cloud services. As a result, industrial shop floors are no longer isolated environments. Thus, it has become essential for manufacturers to ensure secure connection with the outside world whilst engaging with Cloud service providers, remote maintenance suppliers or updating machines’ operating systems.

Managing industrial connectivity in a secure way constitutes one of the main challenges for manufacturers. To respond to the challenges that the Industry 4.0 brings, Worldline offers WL Remote Servicing and WL Digital Doorman, solutions that can be used by owners, customers and suppliers to securely interact with machines in industrial plants. This enables improvements such as a more customized production or an increased machine uptime thanks to faster device servicing.

Manufacturing systems are essential to industrial companies, as they can have a significant impact on the processes and productivity of an industrial shop floor. The so-called automation pyramid describes four different levels of an industrial manufacturing site, each with a different set of manufacturing systems.

In this article, the automation pyramid will be used as a mean to explore manufacturing systems and define how WL Digital Doorman and WL Remote Servicing can extend its use cases enabling manufacturers to overcome the challenges of the Industry 4.0.

Level 1 - Sensors Actuators

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are ruggedized computers that control the switching required to have machines perform actions, such as “shut off the motor of the conveyor belt” or “start the motor of the conveyor belt” and as suggested by the name, they can be programmed. 

WL Digital Doorman extends the use cases of PLCs by providing a secure way to connect them to remote applications and/or users through the internet. It does so by giving remote technicians the ability to access the software applications from a distant location. Once a connection has been established, the remote technician can e.g. restart the PLC sequence, analyze the output or re-program the machine. Thanks to WL Digital Doorman’s web platform, files can also be transferred to different operating systems, allowing remote functional updates, security patching, collecting logs and more to be accomplished in a controlled way and based on pre-defined conditions that local production owners and local IT have agreed upon.  WL Digital Doorman shields the machines from internet threats by creating highly secured data tunnels between the factory shop floor and the Cloud service. These data tunnels are closed by default and only created when explicitly required. This advanced functionality ensures that systems can be updated whenever needed but there is no possible traction for cyber-attacks. Once the access is not needed anymore by the remote technician, the system can either automatically close the connection or the production owner/local IT can close the connection with a couple of clicks. Closing the machine data tunnel also means isolating the machines from the internet, which ensures maximum security. 


Level 2 - Automated Process Control

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is a key system on level 2 of the automation pyramid. As the name suggests, SCADA systems collect and monitor data, as well as control the interaction with PLCs and devices such as valves, pumps, motors etc. To display machine data, a SCADA system collects data from several local or remote PLCs, which is then being displayed on a Human Machine Interface (HMI). The HMI software is a representational application that shows the SCADA data to machine users in a user-friendly dashboard. In cases where an industrial company has several factory locations, it might be useful to have one team in place, which oversees and controls the machines and devices of all shop floors from one central location. This ensures that people with the highest knowledge level are constantly overseeing the operations, while also reducing manpower costs (one central team is required instead of one team per factory).

SCADA HMIs have been designed with the assumption that the server is on the same LAN and not proxy-enabled. This specific issue can also be overcome by WL Digital Doorman, thanks to its specific pass-through proxy. The data flows between the local industrial plants and the remote supervisory team needs to be secured at the highest possible level. With WL Digital Doorman, Worldline offers a solution, which enables remote supervisory and control use cases, as described. WL Digital Doorman comes equipped with cutting-edge security features following the IEC 62443 cyber security standard for industrial sites. The solution has been developed for over 15 years together with industrial partners and customers.


Level 3 - Manufacturing Operations Management

While manufacturing machines, products and employees are usually within the local industrial network, there is an increasing need for connecting manufacturing machines to the internet. Thanks to remote servicing and connectivity assets, such as WL Remote Servicing and WL Digital Doorman, suppliers and customers are also able to securely interact with the machines in the industrial plant. This possibility opens up a significant amount of new use cases and business models, such as a more customized production or an increased machine uptime due to faster device servicing. Manufacturing Execution System (MES) residing on level 3 of the pyramid constitutes the link between the factory levels 1+2 and the business level 4. The main goal of a MES is to ensure and improve the effectiveness of the shop floor’s production execution. It does this by consolidating production data, processes and creating optimal work instructions for the production on the shop floor.


Level 4 - Business planning & Logistics

The Field Servicing Management System (FSM) assigns service technicians to specific tasks and informs technicians about the servicing needs e.g. through an app or a website. With the purpose of supporting the servicing tasks, the system will collect and share as much information as possible with the assigned field technician and the management team. Remote Servicing solutions, such as WL Remote Servicing, extend the functionalities of a FSM application by enabling technicians to remotely access, analyze and fix the machines. For cases where issues can be fixed remotely, the servicing company does not need to send a technician on site, allowing money and time saving. However, not all issues can be solved remotely, but WL Remote Servicing allows to check on machines beforehand, and to order the right spare parts. A local technician can also collaborate with a remote expert through standard tools such as Teamviewer or Circuit etc. Once the technician arrives at the customer site, he will have a better understanding of the underlying problem having the spare parts already available. This process saves time and improves customer satisfaction. 

In Summary

Our Industrial IoT solutions, WL Digital Doorman and WL Remote Servicing, are designed to respond to the digital transformation challenges of the Industry 4.0. When connections can be opened/closed as needed, machines hidden from the internet and full control over industrial plant operations is guaranteed, managing industrial connectivity becomes easy and secure.

Why avoid connectivity in industrial plants for fear of cyber-attacks when connectivity can be managed with the highest level of security? Improve performance and productivity in your industrial environments.

Unlock the Power of IIoT with Worldline.