Remark: The term OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) will be used synonymously in the following for component suppliers, mechanical engineering companies and integrators, as all of them represent the ‘equipment suppliers’ from an operator’s point of view. In practice, many companies have a multiple role/mixed form in the above-mentioned categorization anyway, but this will not be discussed further here, as the focus is on ‘equipment suppliers’ in general.
In the past years ondeso was able to gain a lot of experience in the field of operating companies and support them with our software solutions for the efficient operation of their own plants. Nevertheless, the question of equipment suppliers’ approvals for e.g. patches on the affected systems has increasingly arisen. Through our many years of involvement in various supplier committees, such as the Industrial Security Working Group  of the VDMA (Mechanical Engineering Industry Association), we also had insights into the views of the ‘other side’ (from the perspective of the operators) as well as their problems and open questions.
The question of how to deal with IT components in mechanical and plant engineering in general arises time and time again. These are becoming more and more numerous due to the high complexity of the systems and the highly developed control technology they contain. This development is aggravated by the long operating time, which is more in the range of 20-30 years instead of 3-5 years as it is common e.g. in office environments. For OEMs there is also the fact that they are usually part of a supply chain and are dependent on various component suppliers, integrators, third party suppliers, partners etc., which makes major changes to the machines even more difficult or at least more complicated.
In addition, we have often been told in various discussions that many mechanical engineering companies have historically been driven by ‘mechanics’ rather than ‘information technology’ and that the further development of systems is of a more technical nature, with digital services being considered rather subordinate. Added to this are the higher demands from the customer side regarding the possibilities of handling the IT components within the system. Some of these are not even driven by the customer itself, but are prescribed by the public authorities – see e.g. Critical Infrastructure Protection Regulation (KRITIS Verordnung) , IT Security Act 2.0 (IT-Sicherheitsgesetz 2.0) .
In recent years, however, the operating companies themselves have also attempted to increase the security of the systems, which explicitly employ ‘OT Security’ persons responsible for this – in some cases in the form of full-time positions for this area, if the size of the company is appropriate. After initial stock-taking and partly externally supported investigations of the current status, a plan of action is then drawn up and implemented, which may also involve and coordinate with the plant manufacturers.
All these general conditions result in a very large field of tension between operators and manufacturers of a machine or plant. On this basis, ondeso has made it its business to approach the equipment suppliers and with their support to find a practicable way to handle the IT systems within the plants. The aim was to address the respective difficulties and to communicate the experience gained by the operating companies.
We have summarized more about the project structure, the applied methodology and the concrete use cases in the second and third part of this article series:
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ondeso develops software specifically in the fields industry 4.0 and digitalisation. No matter whether the client is a production company or a machine manufacturer, a medium sized business or a corporate group – ondeso supports them specifically in the field of IT operating management and security in production. The successfully launched products are suited for all industries and applicable across the entire range of production systems and procedures. Whether management systems, HMIs or controls – ondeso manages the lifecycle of industry PCs and offers custom fitted products on the highest technological and conceptual level – 100% made in Germany.
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