Digital transformation strategy has taken hold in manufacturing. In its wake, technology executives find themselves in a new position: The need to align information and operational technologies has become acute as digital services have emerged as the new normal. In this climate, IT teams must reconsider how they support and safeguard the business to create value and drive innovation.
IT change in manufacturing
The consumer world has changed alongside the digital takeover happening in the tech sector. Manufacturing Business Technology magazine reported that the new service pressures created by disruptive companies such as Amazon and Netflix have created sweeping demand for flexible, adaptable and highly responsive services. The result is a situation in which customers are coming to manufacturers expecting high-level support. In simplest terms, it isn't enough to simply produce a good. Companies must also support customers over the entire equipment life cycle, offering ongoing services.
"New expectations have driven a move toward digital technologies in manufacturing."
These new expectations have driven a move toward digital technologies in manufacturing, and a McKinsey study found that improving service delivery may well become the key differentiator between organizations. Hardware is becoming a commodity item and global competition is making it more difficult to compete on product availability. In response, new business models focused on digitized machinery are emerging as businesses work to align data and operations to optimize production, deepen use of analytics and sustain continual innovation.
These factors are pushing a cultural change in which IT systems are pervasive in manufacturing. They're built into just about every process, and many organizations lack the security controls and proprietary intellectual property protection capabilities needed to safeguard data.
The security undercurrent behind digital transformation
With IT systems and teams playing a new role in manufacturing, it isn't enough to focus exclusively on technology. As the enterprise sector has learned over and over again, humans are often the weak point when it comes to data security. Manufacturers face intense competition and the combination of insider threats, user error and targeted attacks poses a major threat to a business' ability to compete in the marketplace.
As organizations embrace data and digitization, they need to take a step back and think about their security culture. The IT leaders that take the time to protect information across all areas of operations can set themselves apart.
Creating a strong security culture
Awareness training is the starting point in making data security a priority across the business. Technology leaders should make sure employees understand the full scope of how they can protect intellectual property and customer data. Key issues include:
- Identifying phishing scams to prevent attackers from getting a foothold in the network and avoiding ransomware attacks.
- Understanding the relationship between user authentication practices and data protection to ensure users comply with best practices and don't take shortcuts.
- Setting expectations for how devices will be managed by the business to ensure users aren't trying to access the network from unauthorized endpoints.
- Establishing best practices for maintenance and endpoint management across environments. With more equipment connecting to the network, maintenance and production professionals need to understand that changes they make can adjust what happens with data and potentially do harm.
- Creating expectations for healthy, open communications between IT and the rest of the business to avoid intimidation. If a user makes a mistake, IT needs to know so they can remedy the situation. That won't happen if workers are too worried of negative consequences to get help.
All of these security awareness issues center around an overarching cultural issue: The gap between IT and operations teams. This divide needs to be broken down as digital technologies become central in every phase of manufacturing.
The right IT support and migration services can go a long way in easing some of these challenges. Through a combination of consulting, technology management and training, the right partner can help organizations stay ahead of the digital transformation curve without sacrificing security along the way. ICS Support offers full-service IT support and consulting capabilities. Contact us today to learn how we can help you innovate while protecting data.