Safe, Secure, Digital: The Evolution of TÜV

In the course of digitization, TÜV has not only further developed all applicable standards – it has developed itself. And now, it is proving its resilience against the effects of the coronavirus. How has the company managed to accomplish this – and what can the process industry learn from it?

TÜV Rheinland is a driving force in the new and further development of safety standards. Along with HIMA, the institution is working to ensure that new and more detailed standards are constantly being brought into play. Such standards are designed to keep pace with rapid technological progress. TÜV Rheinland verifies companies’ compliance with these rules as a certified tester for functional safety.

TÜV Certification: The Ultimate Seal of Safety

There are two main scenarios in which TÜV Rheinland becomes active. Either a product has to be tested again due to modernization and recertification or it is approved for the first time. The latter is particularly time-consuming and can take several months or even years to complete. In this instance, plant operators often involve TÜV Rheinland as early as the preparation of the safety concept. That means errors and unnecessary costs can be avoided directly.

“It doesn’t make sense, even with lots of experience, to just build something new at random when there could be significant concerns later on. That’s why regular exchange with TÜV during development is of such importance to us.”
Boris Betz,
HIMA Paul Hildebrandt GmbH

It is also the responsibility of TÜV to analyze and verify all relevant documentation. Planning and implementation of new products has to comply with the applicable safety standards. Once the inspectors have ensured this, additional verification measures, such as fault implantation tests are carried out. During these tests, plant engineers and experts from TÜV Rheinland rehearse an error to verify that all the appropriate functional safety measures are in place in advance. The test is successful if the safety controller reacts as expected and in compliance with the standard.

In the Course of Time

But in keeping with digitization, TÜV Rheinland has introduced a number of new technologies and supplementary services, as well as automating many processes. What used to take up to six months to complete, now takes just a few weeks – even days.

Many verification activities now take place almost in an automated manner with the help of scripts and automatic processes, and tools subsequently generate comprehensive reports. Manufacturers also now provide documents that need to be checked and reconciled online, and test runs can be initiated remotely. TÜV has successfully kept pace with the change, which makes the entire process convenient for the organization, especially given the current situation. In fact, the crisis had very little impact on TÜV Rheinland. Rather, it accelerated its digital development and pushed toward genuine digitization. Only a few tests still involve the presence of an on-site TÜV expert. Among these is the so-called “witness test”, whereby an inspector ensures that a plant shutdown can be performed in the event of a hazard. As the name suggests, expert presence is mandatory – but HIMA developed a digital solution for that. Thanks to a high-resolution camera and a secure video conferencing tool, the inspector can perform their tasks remotely. This method perfectly supports a recertification test and is considered even more efficient than a physical test. HIMA is looking to roll out this process out to other reviewing processes.

Cybersecurity: A Stumbling Block

This interconnectivity of digital systems has many customer benefits: it creates clear lines of communication, increases productivity, and makes maintenance and control processes possible from a remote location.

However, there is a downside. Previously, system attacks were only possible if there was a physical interruption at the control panel or via a hard-wired system. Functional safety was mostly limited to error prevention. “This direct attack via the hardware is no longer the preferred choice for cyber attackers. Now they tend to route attacks via the network,” says Heinz Gall, formerly of TÜV Rheinland. Impenetrable cybersecurity with threat analysis and risk assessment is therefore essential. That said, security technology is evolving at breakneck speed and becoming more and more complex – like the attacks they aim to prevent.

Security concepts must be adapted constantly and expanded to the latest technology in order to respond to continuous change. A flexible, modular design is essential for that too. HIMA’s Smart Safety Platform, for example, combines compact SIL-3 applications and highly complex redundant systems in one place. It can also be expanded with a wide range of additional HIMA systems is necessary.

That is particularly important as cyberattacks can now hone in on particular safety functions. For that reason, security solutions must be both safe and secure, meaning that when a new system is developed, the standards of functional safety and cybersecurity must be considered in equal measure.

“We can verify that – at least until now – no safety controls have been corrupted by attacks. We are working hard to ensure that remains the case.”
Boris Betz,
HIMA Paul Hildebrandt GmbH

TÜV plays a key role here. Since cyberattacks have become more frequent and more threatening, the organization has also taken care of the certification of cybersecurity systems. As a result, many new standards have come into being over time, including IEC 62443.

Fit for the Future

Technologies will continue to become more complex and evolve at a rapid pace, perhaps even faster than they are now. The future will always hold new opportunities that the process industry can leverage. Take, for example, the concept of virtual reality (VR). VR raises not only safety issues, but also legal ones. It will become increasingly important for testing bodies and safety companies to work closely together if they are to keep up with such evolution. The partnership between HIMA and TÜV Rheinland is providing the right impetus for this.