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Industry 4.0: Enjoy the Rewards While Keeping the Risks in Check

Technology is currently being adopted within the manufacturing sector that will redefine the way factories work. This “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is known worldwide as Industry 4.0. Because these technologies enable physical-to-digital-to-physical connectivity, they will drive productivity and efficiency to levels that are difficult to appreciate at this time.

Industry 4.0 is the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector. It is driven by five disruptions: expanded digital connectivity and related data volume increases; the emergence of analytics and business-intelligence capabilities; additive/hybrid manufacturing capabilities; new forms of human-machine interaction, such as touch interfaces and augmented-reality systems; and improvements process tools, including advanced robotics and 3D printing.

Within the next five to ten years, adoption and widespread deployment of new digital and sensor technologies will dramatically increase productivity, accelerate the design of new products, and enhance the efficiency supply chains.

In the Deloitte University Press paper “Industry 4.0 and the Chemical Industry”, insights are provided on the potential impact that “Smart Manufacturing” will have on productivity and growth, such as:

  • Predictive Asset Management: The polymer industry has high asset intensity that can be optimized through predictive or digital maintenance. Continuous feeds of data from equipment such as extruders can identify patterns to predict and diagnose breakdowns.
  • Process Management and Control: New controls and sensors enable real-time analytics and automated control actions bring together the sensor information and an automated physical response. Process variation results from a myriad of sources – raw materials, temperatures, and equipment wear, for example. Data collected and fed into analytical models will reduce system variability, improving yield and quality.


Unfortunately, the benefits of Industry 4.0 do not come without risks. Beyond the obvious challenge of implementing new technologies, which most manufacturers understand and can effectively manage, there is the less well understood cybersecurity risk that comes with a highly interconnected operation. Cyberattacks can have a much broader and extensive impact in an Industry 4.0 environment. NIST has prepared guidance and resources that will enable manufacturers to quickly and cost effectively address cybersecurity threats. The graphic below, published by NIST, is a general five-step process that can be the foundation for an effective program.

While you consider the best approach to cybersecurity implementation in your company, keep in mind that simply meeting the minimum levels of security is just the beginning in the future, highly interconnected operation. Engaging professional resources will ensure that you are not just meeting the standards, but are fully protected against what is a very real and significant threat to your business.

As pointed out in Deloitte’s “Industry 4.0 and Cybersecurity”: “Regulations and industry standards often represent the minimum security posture that does not achieve full security across the breadth of technologies in use. The breadth of risks will grow, requiring a secure, vigilant and resilient approach.”

As a Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate in Ohio, PolymerOhio works with NIST in their manufacturing outreach efforts. We can assist you in gaining access to the best guidelines, provide insights into what regulations may impact your business as federal agencies begin to demand cybersecurity certifications, and provide valuable resources to help you smoothly implement your security programs. Contact us to find out what we can do for you in this Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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