Like many industries, Food and Beverage manufacturing are undergoing a digital transformation. The scope of, and progress toward, digital transformation end goals vary widely among companies. A secure, scalable network with high reliability is fundamental to digital transformation success but is frequently overlooked.
Identifying the key elements of a strong network architecture and understanding the benefits it delivers helps make the business case for the investment.
What are some of the benefits Food and Beverage manufacturers can realize through the right network architecture?
- Secure information visibility across your industrial operations
- Reduced downtime with an increased speed of maintenance
- More agility, and
- A lower overall risk profile
The Right Network Architecture
One of the primary challenges for manufacturers embarking on a digital transformation journey is knowing where to start. Defining the value of each incremental step toward an overall digital transformation goal can be difficult.
A structured and hardened infrastructure is fundamental to digital transformation initiatives. While it is not typically considered the most glamorous part of digital transformation, network architecture is the critical foundation that helps realize digital transformation value.
What are the keys to getting the right network architecture in place?
- Secure. A good network design should prioritize security. It will incorporate multiple layers of diverse technologies for threat detection and prevention, implemented by different persona (for example, OT and IT), and applied at different levels of the network architecture, to help mitigate impacts of cybersecurity threats.
- Scalable. As your operations change and grow, it is essential that your network architecture does not confine or limit you, but instead scales with your business needs.
- Standards-Based. Adherence to standards compels best practices utilization in the network design and can make it easier to integrate third-party solutions.
- Validated. A network architecture that has been tested and proven reduces the amount of front-end work required by you and supports a faster, more predictable deployment.
- Reliable. Uptime on OT networks is essential to operational success and as such, network reliability and resiliency is an essential consideration.
Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) is an industrial network blueprint to facilitate digital transformation success. CPwE is a collection of tested and validated blueprints by Cisco and Rockwell Automation that helps you design and deploy the industrial network infrastructure you need.
What Converged Plantwide Ethernet Offers
Information Convergence and Visibility Delivers Value
Do you have siloed data and lack visibility into key information? It’s frustrating to install Industrial IoT devices and yet not realize valuable business intelligence from those devices because the data didn’t get where it needed to go.
Data availability across a wide variety of systems at both the operational and enterprise level is required. Convergence of business and operational information enables manufacturers to have a comprehensive view of their business, and make better informed decisions, faster. Fundamental to this capability is a network that supports data being securely passed across the enterprise so that the right information is available to the right employees at the right time.
Mobile and Remote Accessibility Expands Worker Productivity
The value of secure mobile and remote network accessibility has never been higher than today.
In the past, workers were tied to stationary computer terminals to interact with systems and access information. A maintenance technician would go back and forth from that workstation to the maintenance shop or plant floor to look up procedures or technical drawings during a machine repair. This inefficiency added to repair times and limited technician productivity.
Enabling secure mobile accessibility gives that same technician access to information while at the machine and throughout the repair – increasing efficiency and productivity.
In addition to worker mobility, secure remote network accessibility provides opportunities to leverage global expertise within and outside of the organization.
Consider the scenario where a conveyor is having mechanical issues. In the past if you wanted the equipment manufacturer to assist in troubleshooting beyond phone support, you would likely need to have them visit the plant. Remote network access enables experts to perform real-time troubleshooting from their offsite location, reducing travel time, costs, downtime, and time to repair.
Remote network access can also allow employees to perform job functions offsite. Offsite access can improve workforce efficiency, enhance work productivity, and even avoid extended downtime situations.
Agility Helps Meet Changing Market Demands
Markets change quickly and require manufacturers to be agile and responsive. When a network architecture is built on standards and properly architected, it is easier to scale as operations change and grow.
Many manufacturers have product transitions and/or packaging transitions as part of their operations. For example, a cookie manufacturer can have a seasonal version of their product along with seasonal packaging. A standard network infrastructure enables design and production modifications to be made quickly and easily.
Another benefit of a standard network architecture blueprint is the network and cybersecurity specifications that it provides. Food and Beverage manufacturers frequently buy packaged units from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Now, when you work with your OEM, using an established network and cybersecurity specification allows your OEM to build to your needs so that their equipment more easily integrates into your existing network and the OEM can more effectively service your equipment. You have a secure path for OEMs to provide services like remote diagnostics and repair support, and firmware updates.
Minimize and Mitigate Risk
Safeguarding workers, information, and assets are a priority for Food and Beverage manufacturers. A 2019 Industry Week article indicated that 50% of manufacturers had experienced data breaches in the previous year. Unfortunately, manufacturers continue to be at risk of cybersecurity attacks to operational technology networks.
Pervasive industrial cybersecurity policies and procedures are necessary to help minimize the risk of cybersecurity incidents, by helping to protect the integrity of safety and cybersecurity best practices, while also helping to enable industrial Internet of Things applications. No single product, technology or methodology can fully secure network architectures. Protecting industrial IoT assets requires a holistic defense-in-depth cybersecurity stance that addresses internal and external security threats. This mitigation approach uses multiple layers of defense (administrative, technical, and physical), using diverse technologies for threat detection and prevention, implemented by different personas, and applied at separate levels of the network architecture.
Defense-in-depth applies cybersecurity policies and procedures that address many different types of threats. Using a defense-in-depth mitigation approach is aligned to industrial cybersecurity standards such as ISA/IEC 62443 (Industrial Automation and Control Systems Security), and NIST 800-82 (Industrial Control System Cybersecurity Framework).
A network design that addresses cybersecurity is vital to reducing risk exposure and maintaining operational integrity.
Addressing Common Food and Beverage Manufacturing Challenges
If you are just starting your digital transformation journey or if it is already in progress, consider whether your network architecture is a solid foundation to help you achieve your digital transformation vision. With a scalable, secure, high-reliability network design, Food and Beverage manufacturers can address common challenges like limited visibility, high mean time to repair (MTTR) and difficulty integrating third-party solutions while also improving their business agility, optimizing productivity, and minimizing risk.