Industry 4.0 risk evaluation

The manufacturing industry is evolving at a significant pace – the need for increased flexibility, efficiency and speed of production has evolved into what we now refer to as Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The smart factory, with intelligent networks where everything from the assembly line to goods outwards is connected, autonomously exchanging information and triggering actions, is becoming the norm.  Whilst this revolution can be extremely beneficial in increasing efficiency, it also brings with it new risks that business owners need to consider.


These cyber-physical systems cover smart machines, storage systems and production facilities – not just in one factory but possibly across many. In addition, many manufacturers are now closer to their business partners and openly share knowledge and data up and down the supply chain in an effort to harmonise systems and increase productivity. While the integration of systems that were once separate benefits manufacturers, it also carries risks in particular to security. Processes that were once isolated are now vulnerable to cyber attacks that may cause disruptions or loss of assets, at enormous cost to businesses.


Just as manufacturing businesses employ people to spend time and resources on ensuring that machinery is properly maintained and serviced, so the same levels of care and attention must be paid to security. Highly confidential data must be encrypted to ensure that only those with authorisation have access. Network security, deployment of anti-malware, instilling data loss prevention solutions should all be considered to protect systems, processes, IP and high value data assets.


In a similar way to which health and safety, or production maintenance is approached, business owners should develop a plan – a risk management strategy to define who will be responsible for identifying threats and weaknesses within the system, how these will be prioritised and what can be done to mitigate the risk. Being prepared for the possibility of attack is important, it is impossible to be 100% secure so a response plan is essential. Even with the best preventative measures, attackers can gain access to sensitive systems. In this case, it is vital to detect the attack as soon as possible, isolate affected systems and take remedial action. All staff in the business should be made aware of such plans and take responsibility for their part in the process. In addition, as manufacturers are increasingly sharing data across supply chains, there is a growing need to also assess the security strategies of business partners.


As part of the planning process in the move towards a smart, connected factory, the business owner that evaluates and manages the associated risks should be well placed to take advantage of the competitive edge offered by Industry 4.0.


If you have any questions or would like to discuss Industry 4.0 with us in more detail, please contact Ginni Cooper or call on 01772 821021 to be put in contact with a member of our Manufacturing team.