Industry 4.0 and its impact on network architecture

Industry 4.0 has become a buzzword in recent years, with reports stating that the market will grow to $210 billion by 2026.

It refers to an emerging phase in the IT industry that focuses on interconnectivity, automation, machine learning and real-time data. But, it’s about more than companies just investing in new technologies to improve their efficiencies, instead, it involves considering how businesses can revolutionise the way they operate and grow in the longer term.

Evolution of Industry 4.0

The fourth industrial revolution is taking digital technology to the next level, with the help of interconnectivity and access to real-time data, bringing a comprehensive approach to digital transformation. Industry 4.0 technologies allow businesses across all industries to work smarter, while allocating resources for cost effective and efficient processes. It also connects people with the digital world, allowing them to enhance collaboration across departments and partners regardless of geographical barriers, for improved productivity and increased knowledge sharing.

Organisations will further benefit from strengthened flexibility and agility, in addition to offering better customer service. Industry 4.0 enables businesses to improve the service offered to customers with streamlined experiences and more choice for consumers. Following this, companies can achieve higher revenues and improved innovation opportunities, which will help to ensure that they receive a significant return on investment.

Industry 4.0 considerations

However, with its benefits, businesses need to consider the challenges that derive from Industry 4.0 adoption when looking to transition their business and its operations. Organisations will need to evaluate the opportunity cost associated with the fourth industrial revolution. There are two major costs to review: technology and expertise. Having the understanding and knowledge of newer technologies can often lead to budget constraints and businesses will need highly skilled employees to manage the integration successfully.

We have seen a number of organisations launch Industry 4.0 initiatives, but more often than not, a lack of direction and measurable objectives can lead to failure. Typically, these initiatives involve multiple parties, which means there could be conflicting goals, objectives and long term plans. On the other hand, businesses may receive resistance from employees and stakeholders who are risk averse when moving to Industry 4.0. If this is the case, organisations can introduce extensive training to ensure that their teams have the understanding and awareness in order to fully embrace the transition.

Impact on network infrastructures

It is also vital for companies to consider the cybersecurity risks involved when adopting Industry 4.0 practices. With people, products and processes all connected digitally, there will be a greater opportunity for hackers to access the enterprise’s networks. While businesses

can protect the growing range of technologies within its organisation, attackers can easily pinpoint the weakest link. With that in mind, businesses need to adopt a risk-based security mindset and ensure that all identified and outdated systems with the network are sufficiently updated to create an integrated defense across all attack surfaces.

Once these procedures have been established, a security awareness training programme can be developed to embed a culture of security. This training helps to ensure that all employees are on the same page, reducing data risks and building a solid foundation to protect the business and its network from security threats. Employees at every level of the organisation should receive security awareness training to ensure they have the skills required to identify an attack. This training should be concise, engaging and informative to ensure that staff understand what is required of them and the importance of their role in safeguarding the transition to Industry 4.0.

Future of transformation

Many businesses are waiting to see how Industry 4.0 will impact the IT space and change the nature of their industry. Now is the time to investigate and identify the opportunities available to companies to reap the benefits of the digital transformation. With that being said, it’s also critical for businesses to also consider the potential challenges that they may need to overcome when implementing the fourth industrial revolution. This biggest of which involves increasing cybersecurity risks across the network and its infrastructure. Companies need to establish resilient security processes that will protect the business from security threats and possible data breaches.

About the Author

Alan Hayward is Sales & Marketing Manager at SEH Technology. SEH is a manufacturer of high quality network solutions. With over 30 years of experience in printing and networks we possess broad and profound solution skills in these areas for all types of business environments: The most comprehensive print server portfolio for all types of networks and printers.

Featured image: ©Ivan Traimak