High speed wireless networks are making their way onto manufacturing shop floors at almost every level of fabrication, assembly, warehousing, and shipping. These networks allow operations managers and staff members to gather and exchange data on iPads and scanners, which means tighter control over inventory, more efficient machine operation and maintenance, and real time communication. But the added power of a wireless network—even the most advanced system– comes with a cost. As soon as operations go wireless, cybersecurity becomes a concern, and manufacturing operations become vulnerable to system breaches and takeovers.
As network security systems and protocols become more advanced, security may cease to be an issue, but right at this moment manufacturers are at a crossroads, and OT managers need to find ways to balance the speed and power of wireless networks with adequate risk assessment and a strong system of internal and external controls. Here are a few considerations to bear in mind.
Security vs Power: Wireless Networks In Manufacturing
1. Be alert to multiple forms of attack. While data hacking represents a serious problem in office and administrative settings, manufacturing shop floors are also vulnerable to denial of control attacks, which hackers can use to alter machine settings. These attacks don’t just hurt the company’s reputation and bottom line—they can actually pose a danger to employees if machines are improperly calibrated or overloaded.
2. Balance speed with risk during implementation. Many managers react to the threat of potential security breaches by becoming hyper-vigilant and over cautious during the implementation process. This slow progress can actually undermine company goals without doing much to improve security. Instead, consider adopting an established, enterprise grade system used for corporate IT purposes. A system designed to prevent administrative breaches, especially one that’s been on the market for a while, can usually be trusted to handle manufacturing operations as well.
3. Incorporate both OT and IT cultural approaches into control and implementation. OT managers tend to focus on operational efficiency, while a traditional IT approach tends to devote more attention to cyber security and data protection. With open communication and a balance of priorities, managers won’t need to make a choice between safety and operational effectiveness.
There’s no need for manufacturing firms to compromise safety in exchange for instant communication and operational control. It’s possible to gain the benefits of both, but doing so will require implementation and daily maintenance managed by an experienced team of experts. Obtain the consultation and support you need as you move your company forward. Contact the Little Rock IT and OT staffing experts at CSS for guidance.