Phil Brown, managing director at Fortress Technology Europe, explains the benefits of switching to smart equipment, but also stresses the importance of implementing measures to protect your organisation’s digital framework


hile the digital transformation known as Industry 4.0 began on

the factory floor, not all of today’s manufacturers are ‘smart’. In fact, according to a recent study by Deloitte, just 20.7% of manufacturers surveyed rated themselves as ‘highly prepared’ for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yet the benefits to food and beverage producers of incorporating connected technology into their processes are well documented. One reason, which still deters some food manufacturers – in particular SMEs – from taking the digital plunge, is the risk of a cybersecurity breach. Indeed, as more food processing equipment gains coveted Industry 4.0 status, so the threat of data breaches grows. Fortunately, there are steps that

companies can take to protect their connected devices from hackers and other unwanted interference. Brown explained: “Today’s ‘smart’, connected metal detectors allow immediate and remote access, enabling food manufacturers to view current equipment status and take any necessary action to ensure continued, smooth production. Production managers can review and compare operational data, helping them to spot trends and patterns, such as when and where the most rejects are occurring. This can enable them to increase productivity and improve their operational efficiency.” Fortress has responded by developing

remote management solutions. This technology allows multi-site food production plants to manage operations from anywhere in the world using smart phones, tablets and laptops. An unlimited number of Fortress metal detectors can be connected wirelessly using a powerful back-end SQL to monitor activity and generate reports in either PDF or Excel format. Reports can be selected for a specific production line and/or time period. For record keeping, event and performance information is stored securely and remotely for a minimum of 10 years, with the option to extend storage capability to 20+ years. Despite fears of cybersecurity breaches, the risks of using paper records can actually be higher than digital data. Not only can manually collated information be incorrectly recorded, forgotten or lost,


results can also be deliberately falsified. If a food producer cannot prove when and where inspection of their products took place, they may then be unable to demonstrate HACCP compliance and could be forced to re-inspect an entire batch. This may slow production, or trigger a product recall. However, with today’s smart detectors,

Cloud-based records are instantly available to demonstrate when and where testing took place. Some models even comprise automatic testing functions, such as Fortress’ Halo auto system. This ensures the reliability and efficiency of the inspection equipment with minimal operator intervention. Producers can feel confident that their product is good to distribute, thanks to indisputable evidence that their machines are working correctly and that an inspection has been carried out. Furthermore, if contamination is found, these comprehensive digital records also help to limit the incident and streamline the investigation by eliminating locations and timeframes.

MITIGATING RISK With the threat of a cybersecurity breach ever-present, food manufacturers can ensure their smart equipment does not leave them vulnerable to an attack from either external or internal threats, by regularly consulting with an IT specialist. However, there are some simple steps to help mitigate the risks. The most important line of defence is to keep your networks separate. This could involve setting up a corporate network, for areas such as finance and HR functions, and an industrial network, which governs the operational side of the business that keeps the factory running.

metal detectors come with unique user-specific login details in order to reduce internal security breaches

Since the advent of the Internet of

Increased volumes of data needs to go hand in hand with effective cybersecurity measures, and Brown says one tool that is already showing great potential is blockchain. Resistant to modification, a blockchain is a growing list of encrypted data containing a timestamp and transaction information, which can be distributed with new entries added as they occur, to form a chain. The data is recorded and stored securely, providing complete traceability throughout the entire supply chain

Digital fear is still prevalent in the food industry, particularly among SMEs. Yet, the benefits of transitioning from on-premises, hard copy data to a digital, cloud-based Food Quality Management system are multiple

Things, there has been a rise in outside companies (such as connected equipment manufacturers) requiring access to a firm’s internal networks. For example, if a metal detector has a fault, the supplier may request remote access to the machine to rapidly fix it and reduce downtime. To protect against unwanted threats

either to the corporate network (such as accessing confidential personal or financial records) or to the industrial network (such as changing recipe mixes or overriding smart freezer temperatures), it is advisable that food producers apply the principal of least privilege. “This means never giving a user more access than they need to perform their task,” explained Brown One way to do this is to create a third network. Known as a DMZ, this network acts as a secure path between an organisation’s internal networks and the external network, and protects the internal networks from outside interference. By only opening the particular ports needed to communicate on one network at a time, it ring-fences the rest of an organisation’s data and operational controls. In addition to cutting the risk from external parties, SMEs should be aware that attacks on their connected equipment is actually more likely to come internally. In order to mitigate this, it’s important to design any system with traceability in mind. Some of the latest metal detectors come with unique user-specific login details. If an operator wants to make a change to the operational status or machine settings, they must first input their username and password, which is recorded onto a database and stored locally or in the Cloud and provides complete traceability. It also reduces the likelihood of internal cybersecurity breaches occurring in the first place.

Fortress Technology Europe


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