Volume 6 Issue 2 February 2024

In this Issue

Welcome to Industree 4.0 for February, 2024, exclusively sponsored by SAP.


First published by SAP, 2023

Source: SAP and Oxford Economics

Digital Supply Chain Case Study: Kimberly Clark

For Kimberly-Clark, the road to greater resiliency and sustainability within its supply chain is increasingly digital. The global manufacturer of pulp and paper products—including Kleenex tissues and Scott paper towels—brings in some $20 billion in annual sales, and maintaining visibility throughout its global ecosystem is a critical component to that success. 

“[Employees] have to be able to see the problem, the flow, the information. I’m convinced that if you give them that power, they will make the right decisions, they’ll solve the problems, and they’ll get product where it needs to be. You have to give people eyes,” says Tamera Fenske, Chief Supply Chain Officer at Kimberly-Clark. “[Employees] have to be able to see the problem, the flow, the information. I’m convinced that if you give them that power, they will make the right decisions, they’ll solve the problems, and they’ll get product where it needs to be.” 

Kimberly-Clark has taken major strides to develop a series of data-sharing suites that forge deeper digital relationships with both suppliers and customers to create clear views from the forest floor to the grocery store shelf, she says. These systems allow managers to monitor manufacturing, transportation, and even the carbon footprint of their production cycle—often in real time. 

“We’ve created a control tower where we can see all of the orders coming in, we can see what the queue is, we can see how we allocate that out to our distribution centers, and then we can actually start to see it flow through,” Fenske says. “I have a map that I can pull up any time, and I can see how far ahead or behind our distribution centers are. I can see every single order; I can see where it’s going.” 

This degree of visibility allows the company to find solutions to problems before they cascade into major issues. “We can be proactive rather than reactive. We need to be able to react and respond before somebody calls and yells at us.” 

The lessons learned during the Covid 19 pandemic, when stocks of toilet paper suddenly were in short supply, have emboldened Kimberly-Clark to embed itself even more directly into the information flows of both its critical suppliers and key customers and break down silos to reduce such risks in the future. 

“We’ve become laser-focused on driving those connections. We need it on the supplier side, and we need it on the consumer side,” Fenske says. “How do we overlay a full digital infrastructure with our physical supply chain? That’s what we have to get to. We all talk ‘end to end,’ but that digital connection is just as important to strengthen resilience.” 

To drive that message home more directly, Kimberly-Clark recently launched what it calls a “90-day challenge” with a handful of key suppliers. The initiative aims to foster digital innovations that can improve the flow of information, enhance transparency, and even inspire collective efforts to reduce the use of plastics in the packaging of products. 

The goal is to get so deeply embedded in the data systems of key customers that the company can “see their forecast, their demand, and it’s coming through into our system,” Fenske says. “We now have a handful of those where we’re completely connected on the customer side. And now we’re working to get more connected on the supplier side. We’re really using our suppliers to help drive innovations for us through the whole value chain.” 

By making this kind of deep transparency a corporate priority, Kimberly-Clark distinguishes itself from many companies recently surveyed by Oxford Economics, in partnership with SAP. The survey of 1,000 global supply chain executives found that only 32% of respondents said they had complete transparency into their supply chain’s manufacturing, sourcing, or product delivery. However, nearly half of those surveyed (47.2%) said improving visibility with suppliers and across the value chain would generate greater resiliency. Other challenges remain. 

“We need to move further towards demand sensing,” she says. “It’s really beneficial to have that real time data.” To strengthen that message and information sharing, and to help boost the company’s sustainability efforts, Fenske’s staff has embarked on a program to map the flow of products, from the bulk fiber that enters a paper factory, to the finished products that land on store shelves. “We’re going to walk from our distribution center to their fulfillment center to see how the product leaves, all the way from inbound to us, outbound, inbound to them and then outbound to the customer.” The goal is to assess what steps might be cut out of the process to boost efficiency, resiliency and ultimately reduce the company’s carbon and plastics footprint. 

Looking ahead, Kimberly-Clark hopes to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence and tools like Chat GPT to make the manufacturing processes even more efficient and transparent. That is in keeping with most organizations in the Oxford Economics study—58.5% of whom have already deployed intelligent technologies like AI with another 55.8% saying AI is used to nearly the same extent as cloud. But executives are proceeding with caution, particularly as generative AI ramps up.

“Of course, we have the same questions everybody else does,” about the capabilities of AI and the need to protect proprietary information, Fenske says. Once it is “a little more understood and we know we can control it, we could drive more connections seamlessly with suppliers and customers.” Fenske expects the introduction of more sophisticated tools, like AI and predictive analytics, will weave the company’s intricate web of suppliers and customers ever more closely into the tactics and execution strategies being developed at corporate headquarters.

First published by SAP, 2023. Source: SAP and Oxford Economics

Building I4: Level 3: Security

By Pat Dixon, PE, PMP

Vice President of Automation, Pulmac Systems International (pulmac.com)


Ed Torres

Chief Technology Officer


Thus far, we have built a system from level 0 to level 2. In the 3rd industrial era, we were done building our industrial automation system. This system is what we today call Operational Technology (OT).  In the 4th industrial era, we are now using the common communication infrastructure of the internet to connect to higher levels in the hierarchy, which we refer to as Information Technology (IT). We are not done building a system for the 4th industrial era.

This connection comes with a risk; security. In the 3rd era, automation systems were air-gapped. That means that between OT and IT was open air with no connection of any kind. A single site facility that had IT financial systems and OT on premises could connect through proprietary or custom designed networks, but companies with dispersed manufacturing and administration had no connection.  

There was an advantage to this approach; you didn’t have to worry about hackers across the globe intruding into your system and holding you hostage for ransom. It was physically impossible. I have done projects for electric utilities that insisted on this approach, and I have worked on water treatment facilities that still today operate this way.

There is a disadvantage that may be counterintuitive; this approach can create more risk. If you are air gapped, you still need to share data between IT and OT. You can do it by hand with a lot of pencil and paper and manual data entry, which has the risk of erroneous data recording and data entry, as well as economic inefficiency from the labor impact. The more common approach is to use USB (thumb) drives to sneaker-net the data between IT and OT machines. It turns out that this is statistically more likely to cause a virus intrusion than having a hacker get into your network through the internet. The most famous security breach in an industrial control system was Stuxnet, in which an intentionally infected USB drive found in the parking lot was used in the OT system, resulting in a disabled control system.  

There is another big security risk; can somebody intentionally mess up a computer in your OT system. If you don’t have locks on doors to the server cabinets, anyone can walk in and start pulling out cables and powering off machines. If you have default passwords, people can easily log in and mess up the system. A disgruntled employee on their last day of work could cause a lot of damage.

These risks have nothing to do with the 4th industrial era, but if you focus on internet risks while ignoring the risks of the 3rd era you will be vulnerable.

Assuming your OT system is secure, connecting OT through the internet to IT opens up the hacking risk. You need to have competent engineers with skills in networking, switches, and operating systems to design this connection, accounting for account credentials (such as Active Directory), segmentation (layering sub-networks with access credentials to each), switch ports (managing which ports on a switch can be used for what), patch management, virus scan/monitoring, network load, IP address assignment, and many other considerations.  

I have witnessed an intrusion in action. I was leading a project to develop a new SCADA system. We had a team of engineers working for months developing the logic and graphics. It turned out that a server was connected to the internet with no firewall, and we caught an intrusion happening in time for us to pull the ethernet cable out of the switch. If we didn’t catch it as quickly as we did, we would have lost many months of work and missed our deadline for site installation. This is scary stuff, and you don’t want to be a victim.

The point is that the steps for moving a system from the 3rd era to the 4th era are:

  • Secure your OT system.

  • Design the system from a security perspective.

  • Design the connection to the IT system.

  • Train the users to be more aware and vigilant about security threats.

Consider a system, when putting up a new system or upgrading an existing one, that was built using the Secure Software Development Lifecycle (SSDLC). SSDLC helps developers build more secure software by reducing the number of severities and vulnerabilities in the software. SSDLC requires adding security testing at each software development stage, from design, to development and to deployment.

The security triangle, the interdependency of Security, Usability and Functionality, should also be given much thought. As IT tries to secure the system, this will lessen and affect the functionality and usability. In some cases, this might cause the users to circumvent and skip security guidelines thus making the system more vulnerable to attacks. It is a difficult task to find a balance between Security, Usability and Functionality but this is something that is necessary to ensure that security isn’t being bypassed or circumvented to do their daily tasks.

Security is the biggest concern in the 4th industrial era. Several firms in industry have suffered the consequences of data breaches and ransomware. Making the transition too casually is dangerous. Put the effort in to doing it right.

A Digital World

SAP's lead article this month speaks of Kimberly-Clark in a digital world. I am glad to see a real life experience in our industry.

If one cares to look, one can find articles comparing today's first world middle class experiences to the lives of royalty several hundred years ago. The conclusion is always that we have it far easier, have more comforts, have more of everything, even than royalty did not so long ago.

It is the same with with digitization. Only difference is that one need not look back very far to see an environment that is almost antique in its description. Paper machines from even the 1980's seem quite crude as compared to those today. Roll or lot labels tied into order entry and tracking systems only go back a couple of decades.

Why these rapid changes? First, we are producing more bright minds that have innovative ideas and clever solutions to our daily problems. Second, data keeps getting cheaper, even sophisticated data such as SAP's cloud based offerings. Third, when the customers see what is available, they demand it.

Often, what was only available to large companies just a few years ago has now migrated to the smallest players. This is due to the continued development of sophisticated, economical solutions.

Likely, your heaviest investments today are in the area of software. This is where the biggest payoff exists. You might find it an interesting to exercise to examine your ratio of hard assets to software investments over the last few years. Yet don't do this as an interesting historical exercise, but use it as a tool to determine what your future should be.

Innovation in IoT could shed new light on packaging life cycles

By Eve Thomas

The internet of things (IoT) has the potential to streamline processes across the packaging sector and, in particular, to revolutionize the understanding of packaging product life cycles.

Read the full article here

All roads lead to vision for AI - powered industrial processes

By Matthew Greenwood

The next frontier for industrial digitization and automation is the convergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine vision.

Read the full article here

How to create a successful IoT business model - Insights from successful OEMs

By IoT Business News

IoT Analytics published an analysis based on the “IoT Commercialization & Business Model Adoption Report 2024” report highlighting 8 insights from OEMs with business models that are considered more successful.

Read the full article here

Rust: Bridging the Gap in High-Level Language IoT Innovation

By Ray Thomas

Complexity in IoT has grown significantly compared to just a few years ago. The IoT field, once predominantly the domain of C++ programming, especially for smaller microcontrollers and devices, is now witnessing a paradigm shift. Increasingly, developers are turning to higher-level languages such as Javascript and Python, or new contender Rust in IoT development. This transition reflects a push towards accommodating the rapid development and execution of more complex tasks. Yet, this shift isn’t without its challenges and limitations.

Read the full article here
Industree 4.0 is exclusively sponsored by SAP