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Protecting the Operational Integrity of Industrial Infrastructure

The post Protecting the Operational Integrity of Industrial Infrastructure first appeared on the ISA Interchange blog site.

This excerpt is from the November/December 2014 issue of InTech magazine and was written by Clemens Blum, executive vice president of industry business at Schneider Electric.

New powerful and capable industrial control systems and software solutions have created more opportunities for manufacturers to pursue and achieve greater levels of efficiency, performance, and profitability. Businesses now have more data to measure and Dollarphotoclub_64117399analyze, as well as more opportunities to use that data to drive efficiency. This greater interconnectivity between systems and software has also enabled producers to be more agile, particularly in reacting to changing business variables and process conditions.

But these new offerings and capabilities have also created new business vulnerabilities. As manufacturers apply technologies, they must ensure they are not jeopardizing the operational integrity of the plant. Operational integrity is simply the unhindered ability of the system and plant to remain sound and to continue production. In other words, operational integrity means safely and securely mitigating and eliminating threats to business continuity, while meeting or exceeding production targets.

New technologies deliver vital information

Producers are correctly looking at the promise new technologies bring, namely the ability to use real-time information to better understand their resources, improve how they control costs and business variables, and increase their profitability. The need for real-time operational data to achieve this “promise” has propagated the use of commercial off-the-shelf  information technology solutions in industrial environments and shifted the industry toward “connected” network solutions. Now with the Internet of Things, Big Data, and other emerging trends, connectivity has reached a new level of focus in the discussion, as well as in investments. Because almost everything can be connected to anything from anywhere at any time—at a low cost—new opportunities for improving business processes and performance seem unlimited. For example, at its Rabigh, Saudi Arabia, refinery complex, Rabigh Refining & Petrochemical Company implemented a plant information management system, fully and tightly integrated with its control, SAP, and other production and corporate business applications, to optimize output, improve quality, and increase overall business performance. The solution covers the entire refinery and petrochemical complex comprising 23 plants.

But regardless of what that new technology and better connectivity promise for improving business performance, eliminating and responding to potential risks to operational integrity must continue to be the number one priority. Control systems, especially in the continuous process industries, are critical, not just for driving efficiency and ensuring there is no loss of production, but also for ensuring the safety of the company’s assets, people, and environment. Off-the-shelf solutions and higher, more frequent interconnectivity have increasingly exposed industrial control systems to malware and security threats that traditionally target commercial systems. For example, since the Shamoon attack, the preferred target for cybercriminals seems to be the energy sector, where incidents have increased 52 percent since 2012.

Adding layers of protection

Therefore, when deciding when and how to implement or upgrade an industrial control system, the focus cannot be entirely on how newer technology helps achieve production goals. Companies must investigate and understand what and how many layers of protection wrap the system. Those safeguards will enable everyone in a plant to fulfill their roles more effectively. People on the process-connected side of the system will be better able to do their jobs, while those in the control-room side will be able to concentrate on operation performance, without worrying about risks to the integrity of the system.

Click here to read Clemens Blum’s complete article and his industry recommendations at InTech magazine.

About the Author
Clemens-BlumClemens Blum has been Schneider Electric’s executive vice president, industry business, since 2010 and is responsible for the integration of Invensys, acquired by Schneider Electric in January 2014. At Schneider Electric, Clemens has served as general manager of the Berger Lahr Group, general manager of the SE Motion Group, and vice president, European division.

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Source: ISA News