Welcome to the third article in our six-piece series on industrial asset management and business continuity. In this installment, we examine the pros and cons of investing in system lifecycle management or asset management solutions. Is it worth the cost? How do these resources improve and protect your industrial systems and promote business continuity?
With industrial automation on the rise and more remote devices connected to the industrial internet of things (IIoT) than ever, traditional methods for assessing and managing risk simply aren’t up to the task anymore. Virtualization and contingency planning help industrial settings avoid dangerous assumptions and allow business leaders to prepare for all eventualities. Let’s explore why industrial organizations deal with more complexity than ever and how modern strategies can help address this.
The Complexities of Industrial Systems
When considering keeping systems running in your industrial setting, you need to take into account both the infrastructure and the individual devices. Devices may not always be on site. Industrial automation means that many controllers or monitoring stations can be remote, perhaps spread across several sites. Many systems have multiple devices connected, from large pieces of plant machinery to power management devices like relays. Each of these devices can be a vulnerability for various reasons. Machinery succumbs to wear and tear over time, requiring maintenance which may result in a temporary shutdown. Human-machine interface configurations (HMIs), drives, and ethernet switch configurations are just some of the parts of a system that need to be properly maintained and protected from cyberattacks. Each of these devices and system components has its own unique software and program features.
For example, components such as relays could cause equipment to shut down if systems are accessed by determined cybercriminals. This is what happened during the 2015 Sandworm attack. Vulnerable devices were targeted, shutting down a power plant and leaving 230,000 people without power. Effective contingencies and system lifecycle management could help prevent situations like this via a clear understanding of the complexities and specifics of your industrial systems. Your organization could have thousands of industrial automation assets, so you need a system lifecycle management plan that takes all of them into account.
Common Risks and Challenges
We touched on the proper maintenance of machinery to avoid costly shutdowns. But all devices can fail, from the tiniest switch to the largest conveyor belt. Backup plans should include keeping production continuous in the face of device failure. Lost configurations can also cause significant issues. If a PLC were to fail, knowing precisely where to find the relevant code could get production back up and running fast, but many organizations simply wouldn’t know how to find this information.
Another common issue is product environment change. While a change in production techniques, use of devices, and other aspects of production flow are inevitable, without clear documentation of these changes, even minor issues can become disastrous. Clear version control and easily accessible, ideally digital documentation of current processes help production continue or recover quickly.
The final risk we’re highlighting in this section is the very real danger caused by unauthorized and undocumented access to industrial systems and equipment. Having the ability to restrict parts of your systems or processes to certain personnel increases safety and security, while clear documentation of who is accessing what creates a transparent paper trail of every point of access and the reason for that access.
Exposure to even one of these risks makes a strong case for investing in an asset management solution, but many industrial organizations will face all of them at some point in the course of their operations.
The Cost-Effectiveness of Asset Management Solutions
So, are there any downsides to investing in a professional asset management solution? Most organizations would be concerned about the additional cost, as they would for any service. However, the good news for CFOs interested in tightening up enterprise finances is that the long-term savings far outweigh the upfront cost for asset management, not just for disasters like major cyberattacks or unavoidable shutdowns, but for everyday industrial issues like wear and tear or maintenance requirements.
As well as focusing on fast recovery from incidents, system lifecycle management focuses on the preventative measures that can be taken for business continuity. Being able to function in a slicker, more intuitive manner every day, with integrated backups, contingencies, and better processes for change, means organizations make savings daily. Over time, those savings more than cover the cost of the initial solution and continue to cut costs for the business well into the future.
How ICA’s System Lifecycle Analysis Helps
It’s clear the benefits to investing in an asset management solution indicate a strong return on investment. Among those solutions, ICA Engineering’s System Lifecycle Analysis stands ahead of the competition in economic feasibility and efficiency for any industrial organization. ICA takes a five-step approach to create mitigation plans for organizations. This strategy leads enterprises towards central management of automation assets, such as programs, files, and folders, and proper version and revision control. Tracking user actions becomes part of everyday processes, and there’s a significant focus on security and lifecycle management for plant floor devices, as well as extending support to third-party and mobile devices and connections.
In our next article, we’ll explain more about ICA’s System Lifecycle Analysis and the steps it takes to help with asset management and business continuity for a range of industries. If you want more information on this topic, feel free to contact a member of the team at ICA Engineering.