The pandemic has made possible in manufacturing what many once thought impossible for a rigid industry based on schedules, shifts and cycles: remote work.
Data from Cisco over the past year indicates that 50 per cent of factory work is expected to be completed remotely by 2024. The increase in flexibility comes with a trade-off: it means an increase in network endpoints, and therefore an increase in security needs.
How can manufacturers address these once-far-off concerns now? On Jun. 22, Manufacturing AUTOMATION presented a webinar sponsored by Cisco to discuss network access, visibility and security in the age of remote work.
Safe Access, Secure Data: The new protocol in manufacturing featured a panel discussion with Rick Oppedisano, founder and CEO of predictive analytics company Delta Bravo AI, along with Carlos Rojas, global industry lead, manufacturing at Cisco, David Gutshall, head of manufacturing IoT – Americas at Cisco, and Dan Moziar, head of IoT sales at Cisco Canada.
“COVID really pulled us all into this future-state where suddenly it’s okay to be talking about [remote work],” said Gutshall. “Company culture has to be there in order to enable this shift. And the only thing that can really shift that culture is time.”
But there are some things manufacturers can do in the meantime to inspire culture changes, said the experts.
If IT employees are included in operational discussions such as production outage meetings and after-action reviews, it ensures more people are aware of what’s happening on the floor, said Gutshall. It also encourages more accountability, because everyone feels like they are part of a team working to protect business operations.
“Getting folks to step outside of that technical comfort zone or that area of expertise and broaden their skill set – that alone will not only make those folks feel more valuable, but they’ll learn more about your company,” he said. “They’ll become more valuable to your company.”
Working together is crucial as more and more IoT devices are added to networks. Moziar reported that 61 per cent of manufacturers have had a cybersecurity incident in their smart factories. He advised establishing role-based access for transparency as to who is on the network and when.
“It’s critical to make sure the data that you are using as the backbone is secure, is available, is properly networked,” noted Oppedisano. “If the security is not there, if the robust network isn’t there – the benefits aren’t either.”
Rojas suggested that device demands and remote work require a holistic approach to security. Air-gapping – or isolating a secure computer network from other networks – alone is not enough, he said.
In addition to firewalls, security approaches need segmentation to reduce points of entry, and network configuration to prioritize threat detection. Together, it all provides better management of the network. “This give factories and plant workers visibility into their assets, and then it allows them to deploy security and minimal fault,” Rojas said.
The dawn of remote work in plants and the ongoing trend toward digital transformation are making these security changes critical, said the experts. Those companies that have invested in digital platforms can better respond to marketplace fluctuations quickly and securely.
“Organizations need visibility end to end, from the data centre down to the sensor and back, of what’s happening so that they can be smart. You need information. You need data to be smart,” said Moziar.
“If you don’t have that, you can’t shift. You can’t be agile, you can’t be more efficient. If you’re not doing it, your competition probably is.”
Want to know more? Watch the free webinar recording by registering here.