24 Jul 2024

AUTOMATION FOR MANUFACTURING

Coding errors cause shutdowns that can cost $126m

Copia’s survey reveals the most common causes of unplanned downtime, and suggests that half of all industrial shutdowns can be attributed to coding problems

Industrial coding errors are resulting in manufacturing shutdowns that last 30 hours on average, cost $4.2m per hour, and $126m per shutdown, according to a new survey by US-based Copia Automation. It reports that half of all downtime is caused by industrial code changes, code confusion, lack of visibility into industrial code, and issues with PLCs.

The survey of 200 executives – mainly from the hi-tech, electronics, semiconductor, retail and automotive sectors – reveals that the most common causes of unplanned downtime are cybersecurity breaches (47%), followed by hardware malfunctions (45%), coding/software issues (41%), human error (32%) and environmental disasters (25%).

Copia’s 2024 State of Industrial DevOps Report highlights significant vulnerabilities in the OT (operational technology) hardware and software that is used to control industrial equipment. One possible cause is ad hoc fixes to industrial programming, with 79% of respondents reporting that such fixes are common.

While these quick fixes can restore operations temporarily, they often leave organisations susceptible to further breaches because the changes have not been tracked. This makes it difficult or impossible to maintain security updates reliably, according to Copia. The cascading effect of unmonitored changes can be substantial.

“The cost of downtime minimises or eliminates the margin between profitability and failure for manufacturers,” says Copia co-founder and CEO, Adam Gluck. “With coding errors and cybersecurity breaches shown as significant causes for downtime, manufacturers need to take every technological measure to protect their bottom line and ensure continuous operations with enhanced productivity.”

Those surveyed say they spend around ten times longer (45 hours per month) debugging code than reviewing it, with the figure rising to 20 times (77 hours per month) in the retail and materials-handling sectors. Downtime caused by code changes is higher for those with more sites (65% for 76-99 sites) compared to those with fewer sites (31% for 11-25 sites).

Copia suggests that one answer to these issues is to apply IT DevOps principles and practices – such as visibility, automation, validation, and quality control – in OT environments. It says that although 97% of the respondents in its survey are aware of industrial DevOps – a combination of software development and operations – and acknowledge its potential benefits, 44% cited competing priorities as the top challenge to adoption, followed by a lack of interest from management (39%).

Copia offers a cloud-based DevOps platform that, it says, provides “unparalleled” visibility and control of code across multi-vendor devices, promoting quality control, streamlined production, and pre-emptive crisis management. The company adds that this approach can help to achieve faster production cycles, higher quality products, and lower running costs.

The platform provides a single source of truth for code across various devices, languages and locations, to eliminate system malfunctions and downtime, expedite disaster recovery, and facilitate quality control.

Almost a third (30%) of those surveyed were in organisations with revenues above $15bn (30%), 28% in organisations with revenues from $1–15bn, and 28% in those with revenues from $300–999m.

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