Industry 4.0 Blog #1: Digital Transformation

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This is the first of a six-part series laying the groundwork for a successful, secure “Factory Digital Transformation” initiative. This first blog provides the high level considerations for creating a new initiative, or improving an existing one.  You can look forward to gaining practical, real world insight from successful initiatives that you can use in your own projects.

#1 Industry 4.0 Digital Transformation (this blog)

#2 How Visibility & Security Can Coexist in Manufacturing 

#3 Harden the OT Network

#4 Controlling Third Party & Remote Access into OT

#5 Conclusion and Resources for Your Success

Our objective is to provide you with information that you can use to communicate inside your organization where Industry 4.0 stands today, how to set the foundation for a successful program, and how to get started.

The vision for Industry 4.0 has been around for a long time, but so has the hype. Recently, the momentum for Industry 4.0 - or sometimes called “Smart Factory” - has begun to take hold.  Its growth is on track to double over the next 8 years, according to Research Reports World®.

Why Operational Technology Projects are Taking Hold

Industry 4.0 initiatives are finally gaining momentum because technology is catching up to the hype and promise that we've been hearing about for years.  The reasons:

  • Recent Successes – From media coverage, conferences and word-of-mouth, senior executives are understanding why OT is important, and they are not just approving expenditures, they are prioritizing them.
  • Demand for efficiency - Supply chain difficulties, labor shortages, and challenges in sourcing materials are creating pressure to cut costs.  OT applications that drive metrics like OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) are proving to have a significant impact on:
    •  Quality
    •  Resource utilization
    •  Downtime prevention
    •  Predictive maintenance
    •  Scrap reduction
    •  Operator empowerment
  • Technology – Cloud, analytics, AI, and user experience for OT applications has advanced their effectiveness significantly.
    • Cloud applications can be deployed more quickly than their predecessors, with lower capital investment, shorter & less disruptive deployment cycles.  Previously, months of planning, implementation and testing were required before the systems could be brought on-line.  Today, the first devices can be online and beginning to reap benefits within days, if not hours.  That means that operations and advantages can start small, prove out their usefulness without large investments in time, people and disruption.
    •  As plant floor equipment is updated, their capabilities to provide OT processing & data goes up.
  • Cybersecurity – The technology & processes to secure OT have progressed to the point of lowering the risk well below the benefits that can be brought to the operation.  New methods of securing legacy devices have been proven, and devices that were previously kept off the network can be attached to the OT network.

What’s Been Holding Us Back?

Organizations with significant gains in their Industry 4.0 initiatives have found new ways to achieve better results, faster.

People, Organization, and Culture

  • Breaking down organizational silos can be eased by recognizing the perspectives that the various stakeholder departments bring to the table.
  • OT involves new technologies, so personnel with expertise in both plant floor operations and information technology are becoming more accessible as successful projects are completed, and the lessons learned are being shared by vendors and consultants.


  • The challenges in converging OT & IT is acknowledging the differences between OT & IT, and that collaborating by each group’s unique and best skill sets to the project have high value.


  • Cloud technology has made it so that it can be designed in days, if not hours, rather than the six months or more it used to take to launch a digital factory transformation project
  • Cybersecurity has overcome problems in the design and maintenance of security architectures and technologies
    • OT devices can be made invisible, even to the other devices on the same network, much less hackers on the outside of the network
    • Manufacturing cloud application vendors have generally made notable, systematic investments into security because of competitive pressures & compliance requirements
    • Equipment vendors are building security into their products from the ground up

Where to Start - or How to Reinvigorate - Your OT Initiative

At the core of a successful beginning is to create consistency across your network, locations and vendors. For example, most factory networks “grew up” independent of one another.  Different network manufacturers, different security vendors, different ways of securing the network (if at all), different ways of connecting to the wide-area-network or the internet.

To launch a project there are some things to be aware as you begin planning and then deploying OT:

  • Complexity creates both operational difficulties and implementation & support issues, especially when you have multiple factories spread across a wide geography
  • There are differences between IT & OT. Taking the best from IT and applying the right parts of it to OT is tricky.
  • Properly plan your cybersecurity architecture so that it:
    • Blocks all the back-doors, easy exploits, and other methods that bad actors use to hack into an OT network.
    • Creates day-to-day network & security administration that makes sense.  For instance, plant operators shouldn’t have to call a support desk and get escalated to 3 different techs to install a new machine, move it to a new network zone, or decommission it.  Selecting tools that allow operational engineers to make changes without IT, network and security training or certifications accelerates the speed at which equipment can be back on-the job.

These Activities will Lead You to Success

An iterative approach ensures a successful rollout; this lets you make mistakes on a small scale so that you can adjust your deployment as it scales. If your organization is just starting your OT security program, anyone who has already traveled this path will advise you to crawl before you walk with each step.

  • Put in place the organizational & support structure
    • Executive/board buy-in
    • Get the key contributors on-board (OT team, IT network & security teams, plant floor operators/supervisors/chain-of-command, vendor management team, etc.)
    • Roles & responsibilities
    • Governance & compliance
  • Develop the implementation plan
  • Inventory - know what assets you need to secure, and know what you need to secure first
  • Secure the network and your devices
  • Secure the data
  • Develop programs for risk management, vulnerability management, and incident response. 
  • Like you do on your manufacturing floor, always strive for continuous improvement.  Rinse, Repeat.

What’s Next?

Follow this blog series for a roadmap for creating a secure and manageable OT network.  We will show you how to build an OT infrastructure that is:

  • Secure
  • Consistent & Accessible
  • Minimizing Disruption to Operations
  • Minimizing Complexity
  • Front-Line Empowering
  • Business-Enabling

Get in touch with us here or follow Byos on LinkedIn to receive updates when this series continues.

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