Blog del CCI

lunes, 30 de mayo de 2016

Parallel lives and large dams

Explaining the difference between the role of a production engineer and a maintenance engineer is, by all means, unnecessary  -even offensive-  to those who work in the industrial field. However, given the varied composition of "The CCI Ecosystem", in which a not inconsiderable number of members may be unfamiliar with such area, makes it a non-trivial issue. If you are part of this second group, keep the idea that  -and excuse me for simplifying so much-,  from the standpoint of industrial control systems supporting a specific production process, an engineer in charge of the maintenance of such systems would be, let us say, a kind of programmer, in classic IT wording; a production engineer, in charge of the operation of that process, would be her user.

In practice, unlike what is usual in IT, where references to the concept of "shadow IT" would suddenly arise, is not unusual to find organizational designs in which control engineers (technicians) and operation engineers (users) share a common head: the plant’s (or the particular site’s) production manager. Without a doubt, a real incentive for alignment between the two groups and to make them all feel themselves as "The Business", sharing the common strategic objective of optimizing the production process.

Those who advocate for safeguarding that synchronization between the control of the process and the process itself demand, from ICS specialists, an implication beyond the purely technological aspects that allows them to know more deeply the industrial process they serve. That is, they demand from them a sort of evolution from their role as “programmers” to a new one as “functional analysts”, abusing the IT language again.

In parallel, it is conceivable that the above mentioned synchronization will also benefit from those responsible for operating the production process becoming aware of the cyber protection measures that safe operation will require. As we have pointed out many times, training will play a key role here again:  today we talk about dams  -remember Sayano-Shushenskaya’s-;  the Spanish National Committee on Large Dams (SPANCOLD) announces, at this time, the sixth edition of its "International Master in Dam Operation and Safety". Naturally, throughout the course legislation, hydrology, geology and geotechnics are widely discussed; but the only risks mentioned are the ones that have to do with preventing physical damages derived from those factors or from other as the aging of the facilities. In such a context, suitable to develop a safety instrumented systems discourse, one would also remind SPANCOLD the convenience of start incorporating to its master’s curriculum other aspects of risk like the current challenges of cybersecurity and/or obsolescence -concrete is not the only one aging- of those control systems that support the current operation of some of our dams.

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