Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): The Union of Manufacturing and Technology

Manufacturing and technologyWhat does digital transformation mean for your business? If you are in the manufacturing industry, modernizing your IT infrastructure and enabling the manufacturing floor to have real-time connectivity into your operations can mean not only a process transformation but also a real business transformation.

Automation and AI are enabling businesses to maximize the skills of their employees and allow machines to take on more work. Adding cloud and connected sensors to your operations can bring real-time information into your workstreams. Real-time data on the productivity of your plant. Information about what equipment is underutilized. Details about what changes are needed to achieve stretch goals. It is all possible. These technology innovations are here now, and companies are leveraging them to strengthen their businesses.

What is an ideal environment for innovation? How can your company take advantage of the monumental changes underway in technology? What’s the first step? Blackpoint IT is sharing its experience. 

What is IIoT? 

Let’s start with the basics. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) represents the intersection of connected machines, advanced analytics and people at work. The data from a network of intelligent computers is aggregated through a cloud-based service and shared to provide a deeper understanding of the manufacturing applications, machines, and systems. The information can then be used to make real-time changes in manufacturing processes, optimize the production environment or enhance the supply chain. Smart, faster business decisions for industrial companies is the focus of IIoT.

The potential is enormous. Accenture Institute for High Performance estimates the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will contribute up to $14.2 trillion to global GDP by 2030. Unfortunately, as Cisco discovered in a recent report, only 26% of companies are successful. 

The ideal environment for innovation.

We can’t underscore the importance of cybersecurity enough. Cybercrime is on the rise and criminals are being more creative in their quest to penetrate corporate networks. The size of the company isn’t a natural deterrent as we discussed in our blog, “How to be Cyber Secure in 2019.”

The critical machines that control your warehouses and operating plants rely on functional and secure technology. As you connect these elements, it is a good idea to have an IT structure and security in place. This is no different than securing and streamlining your network and infrastructure to make sure your computer users are safe and productive. Let's dive into what you'll need to look at to protect your organization and leverage technology to improve productivity and efficiency.

What should you protect?  

Any machine with an operating system and a connection to your network should be protected. This includes SCADA systems, industrial equipment, industrial analytics tools, management software like Spectrum Construction Management Software and Rockwell Software, network components, and all network devices like switches, routers, and wireless access points. Hackers can penetrate a network from any device. It is essential to have a clear understanding of all the devices connected to the network and what systems and processes rely on them. Don't forget your staff members. When we perform a cybersecurity audit, staff member training is usually an overlooked area. Social engineering, or human hacking, is on the rise, so proper training and protections need to be in place. 

How do you protect it? 

First, hire a third-party company to do a network assessment as well as a security assessment. It's important to understand how your network is set up, what devices are connected to it, and where vulnerabilities exist in your system. Then consider your options and find a comprehensive security solution that fits your organization's needs.

Security is not one-size-fits-all, especially when it comes to the manufacturing industry. Security solutions can differ depending on size, product type, machines, systems, the location of equipment, etc. It might be worth segmenting your equipment onto a different network to protect your primary network.

It is part of our regular mantra at BlackPoint IT - employee training is a significant component of a comprehensive security strategy. As stated above, employees are the most vulnerable aspect of your infrastructure, and you need to protect them as well as teach them how to protect themselves.

Even when you've worked with IT consultants, set up your security plan, and installed all of the necessary security tools, there is still no guarantee that you can prevent a sophisticated ransomware attack 100% of the time, which is why backing up your equipment is critical! 

It’s protected. Now what?

You’ve accessed your technology and know where all the connected devices and technologies are in your system. The appropriate security measures and ongoing training plans have been implemented. It is now time to make sure you have defined your goals, determine your in-house capabilities and start to consolidate.

One of the benefits of IIoT is cost reductions. The IT specialists you work with on the project will help you identify bloated expenses you can cut, and how you can make your IT run more efficiently. Enhanced productivity is also a top benefit derived from a connected environment. Adding cloud capabilities and security will help maximize this value especially if you have mobile members.

IIoT is transforming the daily operations of industrial companies. Whether it is uncovering additional capacity in a plant or improving productivity by taking maintenance steps identified by predictive analytics, technology is generating positive business outcomes. If you don't take this opportunity to leverage the marriage of manufacturing and innovation, your competitor will.

If you are ready to explore how IIoT could improve your operations, let’s take the first step and start with a security assessment. You’ll not only learn how to you can leverage the insights from your manufacturing technology, but also where you are vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Request an assessment today.

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