Can industrial and manufacturing security drive ops, productivity and profitability too?

Industrial, manufacturing, security, dev ops, productivity, profit, opinion
Neil Cameron, Johnson Controls Area General Manager, Building Efficiency – Africa.
Industrial, manufacturing, security, dev ops, productivity, profit, opinion
Neil Cameron, Johnson Controls Area General Manager, Building Efficiency – Africa.

With so many moving parts, industrial and manufacturing concerns have a broader risk profile. This means their security solutions need to work harder—the safety of people and assets is at stake but so is productivity. Smart organisations are making use of intelligent security solutions with open systems that can communicate with SCADA and ops systems to drive complex processes related to optimising operations, production and profitability.

Security informs complex processes

Data collected by security systems can help address numerous issues and drive key processes. For example, smart algorithms within CCTV systems could work together with sensors in equipment and SCADA solutions to identify and address bottlenecks within manufacturing processes, or to identify anomalies (e.g., aggregate that has dropped off a conveyer belt and now poses a hazard) that require attention. Similarly, if key areas are out of bounds within a facility, a security system can help identify unauthorised personnel movements, helping to initiate processes to have the person quickly removed from the area or to close dangerous equipment down.

In terms of enhancing productivity, a security system could relay key data relating to efficiency – for example, how many people are on a production line at a specific time. In conjunction with other information, this could help the organisation identify how many people are needed on a line to optimise outputs. The counting of people would in the past have been done by a specialised equipment, now the advanced features of cameras make them capable of these functions and of communicating to ops equipment – it’s convenient to use them, and cost effective.

A more sophisticated, platform-based security system can also drive more than basic safety features. Low capability security solutions may simply grant access to specific personnel based on their profiles. A more sophisticated access control system may be able to consult HR records to ensure the person seeking access has received the necessary training within the required period, and has not illegally signed in for a double shift, potentially compromising the safety of others and breaking health and safety codes. In addition, by sending access information to payroll, a complete digital record can be created, automating some of this function too. Clearly, being able to integrate complex rules into these systems is of enormous benefit to organisations.

Privacy and control

Sharing too much data from security systems within the organisation’s SCADA and other systems can be problematic, however. Security threats come from everywhere – and SCADA systems present an easy target. So, for instance, while knowing how many people are in the building at any time will help ensure heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) outputs meet needs, attaching people’s names and designations to those numbers could be an invasion of their privacy. In addition, putting this kind of sensitive information into an operational system that typically does not have the protection that corporate systems do, is just asking for trouble.

The good news is that advanced systems will not only use standard communication protocols like OPC and BACnet, XML and APIs to communicate or feed information to SCADA and ops systems, they will only share very specific information, thus limiting risk and adhering to the POPI act.

One golden rule when it comes to integrating security with any other systems is that master central control must be vested in the security system – you don’t want the SCADA system controlling information or the distribution of information.

An automated, AI-driven future?

Beyond privacy, control and productivity, there’s one other reason manufacturing and industrial organisations need to be looking at making use of more sophisticated security systems: automation. As the fourth industrial revolution kicks in, automation, robotics and AI will begin to replace and augment human roles. Security needs will change but use of an advanced security solution with open systems and the ability to communicate with SCADA and ops systems will be non-negotiable.
By Neil Cameron, Johnson Controls Area General Manager, Building Efficiency – Africa