Krones

Principle of success: Filling – and securing

Soon the Upper Palatinate beverage line manufacturer Krones could expand its global reputation even further and also act as an important player for industrial 4.0 security. Digital transformation in its purest form.
Autor: Sven Hansel
Fotos: Oliver Krato
"Krones fills them all” – was the recent headline of “Wirtschaftswoche” about a company without which literally not much would happen in the international beverage business. Whether in Sydney, Stockholm or San Francisco, whether beer or limo, every fourth beverage bottle in the world is filled, labelled and packaged on a Krones line – in Europe even every second. And it may soon be possible to add another chapter to the success story of the world market leader for bottling lines. It could well be that the company from Neutraubling near Regensburg, which has been listed on the stock exchange since 1984, not only “fills them all”, but also “secures them all." Krones is currently expanding its portfolio by a very contemporary area and is preparing to play a notable role in the field of industrial 4.0 and IoT security as well.

Own PET recycling process

The new aspect in the company, which started out with labelling machines in 1951, stems from the fact that Krones’ products cover the entire filling and packaging process, as well as the process technology and material flow in the manufacturing plant, and also integrate the corresponding IT systems. In addition, the Upper Palatinate-based company is implementing factory planning projects for the beverage industry and even has its own process for recycling PET bottles, so that they can be reused as thermoplastics in the beverage and liquid food sectors. 

Secure IT systems in machines

“And just as our clients are confident that our machines are fail-safe and thus reliable in operation, they must of course be confident that the IT systems increasingly integrated into them are just as secure,” explains Dr. Thomas Nowey, Corporate Information Security Officer (CISO) and Group Privacy Officer at Krones AG. And not just that, Nowey’s position is suspended in Syskron, a Krones AG brand that specializes in the digitization of production and communication processes and the optimization of your value chain. This explicitly demonstrates the importance that Krones AG attaches to the subject of security, in addition to an Industrial Internet of Things platform or intralogistics, for example. At Krones, for example, the ISO 27001 certification, acquired in 2014 and consistently maintained ever since, contributes to IT security.

„For quite a few component manufacturers, security functions such as an encryptedconnection are still a mystery even today.“ Dr. Thomas Nowey, CISO Krones AG
Future Security

Nowey and his employees have a wide range of tasks to perform. This ranges from customers who have questions about how they can safely integrate their machines built in 1995 into an industrial 4.0 concept to beverage and liquid food manufacturers who specifically request a two-day security workshop under Syskron’s direction. “It is no longer just a question of how quickly we can fill bottles, as it used to be. Rather, our customers want to find out here how they can secure information flows in future or how they can securely combine different components with one another,” says the Krones CISO.

Detecting anomalies through controlled attacks

In addition, Syskron not only has external customers, but also internal experts who are in great demand. After all, unlike office IT, the so-called Operational Technology (OT), i.e. the information technology that works on the machine level in the factory hall, is traditionally very compartmentalized. “Digitization has radically changed this. And serious changes always raise questions among employees, which is normal,” says Andreas Reisser, Head of Processes, Governance and Security at Krones AG. This ranges from profane educational work on the fact that the existing USB port of the networked machine cannot be used to charge the private smartphone, to the major issues of detecting anomalies through controlled attacks. “In contrast to IT, openness and networking in OT is a relatively new aspect. There is a lack of experience here and we support it. The human being is our greatest lever and is at the centre of our actions”, says Reisser.

Whether for milk, soft drinks or beer – Krones machines run 24/7 around the clock in the global beverage industry.
​​​​​​​Security tolerence zero per mille

At a time when even novices have installed a virus scanner among private internet users and are aware of the importance of regular Windows updates, is industrial security in industry 4.0 a work of art? Apparently, and this is in the nature of things, as Nowey and Reisser know how to explain. No matter whether Krones machines fill milk or water, up to 120,000 cans of soft drinks (per hour) or up to 72,000 bottles of beer in the same time – the tolerance range for food safety is far below the per mille limit. However, according to the experts, safety in industry 4.0 only knows a few standards. “Of course, you can’t expect class X safety to offer safety level Y, as you would in occupational safety, but efforts by everyone involved in this direction would be highly desirable for us,” they say.

"Safety as a means of survivall.“
Andreas Reisser, Krones’ Head of Processes, Governance and Security
Machine running time 24/7

Ultimately, there in not only a lack of experience in industry 4.0 security, but the work is also made more difficult by the fact that OT – to put it casually – never gives up. “For us, but also for our customers, the question of how OT security affects operational efficiency is of course always important,” says Thomas Nowey. This means that every machine's downtime costs cash. Whereas in the past it was just a matter of installing a new coupling or servicing the machine, nowadays information technology can also ensure that downtimes prevail. That’s why Krones is researching, for example, a way of applying necessary patches in an abstraction layer in the background, so that production can continue. After all, in many places in the global beverage industry, Krones customers calculate their machine running times in principle 24/7.

A blueprint for industry 

All in all, Thomas Nowey, Andreas Reisser and their colleagues have plenty of work ahead of them for the years to come. Here, the example of the in-house company, which also develops safety concepts and solutions for external customers, could set a precedent in the industry as a blueprint across all sectors. But this also includes the fact that the Krones Group with its more than 100 locations worldwide enters into partnerships as a matter of course, for example with T-Systems. “What is available on the market for security solutions? How do we best integrate them into our production processes? T-Systems is a great help to us in these matters, because together we are turning a big wheel,” says Thomas Nowey.

IoT-Services at the touch of a button

One result of this very partnership-based cooperation can be something like Deutsche Telekom’s IoT Service Button, a retrofit solution for logistics, production facilities, workshops, construction sites or hospitals on the Internet of Things (IoT). At the push of a button, spare parts are ordered, full containers picked up or technical malfunctions reported. Krones AG has been using the digital button successfully in logistics since 2018, and has equipped 28 collection points with the IoT Service Button. Once the spare part has been produced for the customer, the small IoT device sends a message to the secure cloud of things, Telekom’s IoT platform, with one click. It then automatically notifies the logistics department to pick up the machine part by SMS or e-mail. Krones uses the IoT Service Button to send up to 100 different messages to the logistics department. This accelerates logistics in the supply chain: Waiting and idle times between different stages of the value chain are reduced to a minimum. “If someone comes and has a good idea, we are always open to it,” safety expert Nowey assesses the IoT button for his company.

Armed against all risks

The result of all our efforts, whether alone or with partners, is the “Security by Design” principle, to which Krones AG has also committed itself. “Quite a few of our more than 16,000 employees also bear direct or indirect responsibility for the production systems. In this sense, we want to give them guidelines for these industrial 4.0 systems, so that they are well armed against all risks,” says Nowey in response to the question of his company’s security strategy. Krones AG is on the right track here. Champion in bottling, and soon also champion in securing.