In 2018, Manufacturing and Technology Will Go Hand in Hand

Get IT Services and IT Managed Services today for ManufacturingThe Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has taken the manufacturing industry by storm, and is estimated to generate $12 trillion of global GDP by 2030. But what does that mean for the security and functionality of your organization's manufacturing operation? If the critical machines that control your warehouses and operating plants rely on functional and secure technology, wouldn't it be a good idea to have at least some IT structure and securty in place? This is no different than securing and streamlining your network and infrastructure to make sure your computer users are safe and productive. 2017 was a scary year for cyber-attacks and 2018 is not going to be any better. Let's dive into what exactly you'll need to look at to protect your organization and leverage technology to improve productivity and efficiency. 


What is IIoT? 

For those who aren't familiar with the term, IIoT is applying the concept of IoT, a network of intelligent computers, devices, and objects that collect and share huge amounts of data that is then sent to a central Cloud-based service where it is aggregated with other data and then shared with end users in a helpful way, to manufacturing applications, machines, and systems. The IoT intelligent systems enable rapid manufacturing of new products, dynamic response to product demands, and real-time optimization of manufacturing production and supply chain networks, by networking machinery, sensors and control systems together.

Digital control systems to automate process controls, operator tools and service information systems to optimize plant safety and security are within the purview of the IoT. But it also extends itself to asset management via predictive maintenance, statistical evaluation, and measurements to maximize reliability. Measurements, automated controls, plant optimization, health and safety management, and other functions are provided by a large number of networked sensors.


What should be protected? 

Essentially any machine with an operating system and a connection to your network. 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. Hackers can penetrate a network from any device, so it's important to have a clear understanding of all devices connected to the network and what systems and processes rely on them. Don't forget your staff members. When clients discuss cybersecurity options, staff member training is usually not the first thing to get brought up. Just like your equipment, your staff members have the ability to be hacked, 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 org size, product type, machines, systems, location of equipment, etc. It might be worth segmenting your equipment onto a different network to protect your primary network.

Employee training is also a major 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 gaurantee that you can prevent a sophisticated ransomware attack 100% of the time, which is why backing up your equipment is critical! 


Once protected, how can you make the most of the technology? 

Once you understand where everything is, and you protect it accordingly, start to consolidate. Work with IT specialists to see what bloated expenses you can cut, and how you can make your IT run more effeciently. If you have mobile staff members, the cloud with additional security features might be a good option for improving productivity.   


Bottom line is that manufacturing and technology are becoming more entwined and if you don't take this opportunity to leverage that marriage, your competitor will. Enlisting the help of a managed services provider is the best way to do this. Technology is a very difficult DIY task to tackle and procuring specialists to help you is the best way to go.  



To request a free consultation with a blackpoint consultant, you can schedule an appointment or call (866) 575-9512. 


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