Data protection vs. Factory 4.0 – Can “unhackable” work?

While everything in production management is heading towards the digitalization of the factory and Factory 4.0, and cloud solutions are the means of choice for global players in particular, we are facing a change in data protection law that will come into force in May of this year (European General Data Protection Regulation).

At a time when machines are increasingly communicating with each other within a factory and across companies without human intervention, synchronizing and exchanging data and controlling each other, we still have to guarantee that nobody tampers with this data from the outside. And so the firewall settings are configured for maximum security, USB ports are blocked and cloud solutions such as Dropbox are excluded. This in turn leads to problems with digital networking between companies, suppliers and customers. Finding the right solution here is like looking for the jack of all trades, the yeti or the Wolpertinger – it sparks the imagination and creativity, but unfortunately it’s not realistic.

Nowadays, machines and computers can be repaired remotely, we track our deliveries via GPS, our invoices are transferred directly from the customer’s email to the ERP system as a PDF, and we now often receive orders via EDI. Many storage systems are fully automated and inter-company transportation is also carried out by AGV (automated guided vehicle). The human being is really just the referee on the sidelines and blows the whistle when something goes wrong. The thought of someone unauthorized intervening, a Trojan spying on data or a virus sabotaging the entire system is frightening. And of course we have to protect ourselves as best we can. But we will probably also have to live with the fact that there is no “unhackable system” and that the gaps we have to leave for the necessary communication can also be used in other ways. Or, we could abandon Factory 4.0 and go back to Factory 2.0. The Russian secret service is said to have switched back to paper and mechanical typewriters for particularly sensitive documents.

But to bring the church back to the village: Have you been on facebook or used What’sApp today? Exactly… ????

Picture of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

Prof. Dr. Andreas Kemmner

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