Industry 4.0 and the capabilities brought forth with this digital transformation are changing the way OEMs and their customers interact with equipment. Remote access –once considered a premium offering – is now the baseline of support for industrial equipment. To stay competitive in today’s world of on-demand-service, system performance and optimization, support models must transform from a reactive approach to a proactive model based on data analytics and next generation remote support options.

So how do you get there?

Sure, you can plug an ethernet cable into your PLC, manually build a cloud location, and deploy applications analyzing data and providing reports. But with these new connections also come new risks, especially if they are built with traditional/legacy tools. As the landscape for connected industrial equipment expands, so does the market for organizations stealing data and holding equipment ransom. Simply capturing data and pumping it into a machine learning platform is not enough. The foundation for these new service platforms needs to start with a cybersecurity first approach.

To do this, the approach you take cannot be a traditional IT network like you would use to connect your laptops and printers inside the office. OT infrastructure has different security needs, so the following points need to be considered:

  • Full OT/IT Network segmentation
  • Edge to Edge cybersecurity
  • Access control down to the device level
  • No inbound ports
  • No static IPs

You might be asking, “what’s to gain from this”. There will be a cost and time associated with deploying such a platform. How will you start to realize the payback from this investment?

  • Remote Connectivity – OT specific networking takes the burden off your IT department and allows for a cybersecure, layer 2 capable, point-to-point diagnostics and troubleshooting connections.
  • Continuous data collection – Always-on functionality enables constant dataflow to your secure cloud. This can provide immediate alerts when equipment goes down for faster response times and provide your customers with on demand process statistics for optimization.
  • Preventative and Predictive Maintenance – By having constant data monitoring, you can provide proactive maintenance programs to your clients, increasing uptime and reliability when compared to previous, reactive models.
  • Data Connectivity to your customers – Enable your customers to be smarter with their machinery. Machine data can be aggregated into their ERP system for smarter manufacturing processes and real-time, automated insights.
  • Controller and data backup – When the inevitable happens, full backups are readily available to restore machine functionality.

To stay competitive in a rapidly evolving landscape of connected industrial processes, the remote-access service model alone simply does not work. To learn more about how you can build a smarter, connected network of equipment, schedule some time to discuss your application with one of our OT Network specialists.

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Blog post is written by Eric Cohen - OT Network professional having talks about Industry 4.0,  Smarter buildings, Smarter cities, Cybersecurity, and Digital transformation.