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Safeguarding data in the age of smart manufacturing

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The era of smart manufacturing and building intelligent factories is transforming manufacturing as we know it. Industry 4.0 has brought on the swift adoption of powerful tools aided by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT), which has resulted in greater optimisation, and automation but also a large amount of data. To address the management of this new level of data, Gartner has indicated that 40 per cent or more of manufacturers will integrate modern data quality (DQ) solutions to aid their digital business goals and their data transformation journey by 2025. With the influx of data, however, manufacturers must ensure that risks are mitigated and data protected.

“In additive manufacturing, and probably manufacturing in general, the more digital it becomes, the more opportunities for malfeasance inside workflows and the data,” asserts the VP and general manager for North America at Materialise Bryan Crutchfield.

As the manufacturing sector transforms by adopting digital technologies, expanding into global markets, and leveraging cloud-based solutions, the industry must address this pivotal question: What is the overall susceptibility of the entire manufacturing ecosystem, not just its digital components, to new emerging risks?

The increasing amount of data gives rise to data breaches and vulnerabilities

Smart manufacturing has considerably improved production capabilities, leading to enhanced efficiency and customisation. Whereas traditional manufacturing demands vast data collection on production details, according to Forbes, the incorporation of new innovative tools, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can alter this substantially by aiding the automatic, real-time gathering of data, removing the tortuous process of manual entry and reducing mistakes. Additionally, Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) amass and interpret this data, relating it back to business-level systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) to optimise operational effectiveness and decision-making processes.

Considering the current manufacturing landscape, what are some of the most common causes of data breaches? The rise of digital integration has exposed operational technology (OT) systems, vital for manufacturing operations, to an increasing array of cybersecurity threats. Further, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has reported over 1,200 security vulnerabilities across OT systems from numerous manufacturers, and the expanding digital footprint of these technologies highlights the acute need for robust cybersecurity measures.

The financial impact and instances of data breaches in manufacturing

Cybersecurity is top of mind for many leaders because of what is at stake, making protecting data from malicious attacks a growing concern across all business sectors worldwide. However, the manufacturing sector is specifically at an elevated risk and leading the most global cyberattacks (nearly 25 per cent).

In terms of the global industrial sector, including the manufacturing segment, there was a significant spike in 2023 with the average data breach soaring to US$4.73 million, up from US$4.47 million in 2022. In order to safeguard their enterprises, a recent IBM survey found that 51 per cent of leaders indicated they would increase security investments. IBM’s data suggests that US$1.76 million is the median savings for firms that employ security AI and automation extensively compared to those that do not.

Steps to building a successful manufacturing cybersecurity framework

According to a Deloitte report, organisations should undertake these steps to achieve a robust and efficient manufacturing cybersecurity program:

  1. Evaluate your cybersecurity process and maturity: Ensure a cybersecurity maturity assessment is completed.
  2. Draft a security program: Determine a formal cybersecurity governance design that includes consideration of OT.
  3. Prioritise activities: Rank the most important actions that will elevate cybersecurity measures.
  4. Security should be fully incorporated: Ensure your framework has built-in security.

Prepare for the incoming manufacturing metaverse

The metaverse may sound like an obscure futuristic term, but the manufacturing industry, by all accounts, is well-suited for the implementation of the industrial metaverse. The innovative digital architecture of the metaverse features a secure sandbox ecosystem for simulating smart manufacturing processes and allows for the incorporation of tools such as blockchain technology and decentralised data management without opening real-world systems to threats.

More than 70 per cent of surveyed executives in a recent Deloitte study indicated that in the next five years, the industrial metaverse will have an increased rate of adoption in the manufacturing industry. Over three quarters (80 per cent) said they were convinced that the metaverse will forever alter design, research and development (R&D), and innovation and facilitate the introduction of new product tactics.

Building a resilient smart manufacturing ecosystem

Beyond the incorporation of emerging technologies and new digital architectures, manufacturers are tasked with building and fostering a culture of collaboration, specifically in the secure IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) teams.

With the rise of digital transformation and the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming widespread in manufacturing, IT and OT efforts often converge through the implementation of security, and this intersection streamlines workflows, reduces costs, but also introduces additional security risks. To manage this complexity, enterprises must ensure that IT and OT are engaged together in a harmonious union and that the solutions chosen will provide a balance of efficiency gains with security measures.

The future of safeguarding data in manufacturing

Manufacturers stand at a precipice of change, and the decisions they make today will impact future business, making cybersecurity one of the biggest challenges and priorities of 2024 and beyond. To counteract the amount of risk in manufacturing, protecting data has never been more critical, and the strategies manufacturers take will need to be comprehensive and multifaceted.

As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, manufacturers must find a balance between employing data for productivity and protecting it through safety and security measures. To truly develop into an innovative, sustainable manufacturer, accurate data can aid leaders in bridging the gap, but intelligent tools and frameworks, such as the Consumer Sustainability Industry Readiness Index (COSIRI), can be more than an asset, capable of unlocking insights to accelerate their Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) journey.

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