Four digital risks facing the manufacturing industry
Technology has played an instrumental role in the evolution of manufacturing – from artificial intelligence (AI) enhancing warehouse management systems, to machine learning (ML) forecasting demand based on real-time events, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices gathering production data around the clock – innovation has propelled the industry forward and established the bottom line for success. Who could have predicted, for example, that Ford Motor Company – founded in 1903 – today files more technology patents than Google and Amazon combined?
Over time, technology has changed from being a nice-to-have, to a competitive advantage that can make or break a manufacturer. It’s clear that digital transformation is an important facet of manufacturing, but that doesn’t mean it’s plain sailing – constantly embracing and pursuing digital projects opens businesses up to a range of new risks. For manufacturers, the key is striking a balance between risk and reward.
In order to continue to digitally transform and thrive within the industry, manufacturers need to get familiar with these new risks and how they come about; only then can they put in place a clear digital risk management strategy to counter them. Here are the four key risks to consider:
1. Risk of cyber-attack
The manufacturing industry has always been a prime target for cyber-attackers trying to steal intellectual property or disrupt operations. According to the manufacturers’ organisation, Make UK, manufacturing is the third-most targeted sector by cyber criminals, and around half of manufacturers report suffering financial or operational losses due to cyber-attacks.
Cyber-attack risks are widely expected to increase due to digital transformation. Manufacturing now ranks as the biggest investor in IoT compared to any other industry. As manufacturers integrate more digital sensors and other connected devices into their daily operations, their attack surfaces will widen. This gives adversaries more potential entry points to exploit.
The answer? Visibility. Whilst attacks cannot be prevented, they can be mitigated. The first step is for manufacturers to map out exactly how new technologies connect to their infrastructure and interact with critical processes. Only then can they put in place additional measures to monitor for and guard against potential cyber-attacks.
2. Risks introduced by third-parties
Manufacturers have always had to contend with having a large supplier ecosystem, but as more of their production facilities and products involve digital elements, they now need to re-assess the digital risks that their partners introduce. In fact, there’s evidence that many data breaches are linked to direct or indirect third-party access.
One interesting example is product tampering where malicious technology can be introduced into a product as it moves through the supply chain. This has led to the rise of e-pedigree, which is essentially electronic documents that show exactly who has handled the product. Some manufacturers have also started to use blockchain technology to help manage data provenance and ensure authenticity of goods.
At an absolute minimum, companies need to understand the vulnerabilities third-parties create, but ideally this should be expanded to include potentially risky fourth and Nth parties too. They should also re-assess and introduce (if required) greater due diligence for upstream providers. After all, manufacturers can be held accountable for compliance and security issues, even if they’re introduced by partners.
3. Risks around collecting and storing data
Alongside the growing use of new technologies, collection and sharing of data has become a prominent part of the industry. Data helps provide personalised customer experiences, improves products and helps create new ones. In automotive, for example, it’s common for personal data to be collected after the car has been purchased, to help monitor for bugs.
At the same time, the mistreatment of data that has been collected for commercial reasons can lead to infringement of privacy regulations. The global drive towards digital has meant that there are many such regulations that dictate what companies can and can't do with data – and big fines for anyone who violates them. Manufacturers must make sure their digital strategies adhere to these – this may involve giving consumers “the right to be forgotten”, obfuscating their data, disposing of it after a period of time, or questioning whether they need to keep it at all.
4. Risk of disruption to operations
As business-critical infrastructure becomes more complex, connected and data-driven, this can have a significant impact on how businesses should deal with disruption to their operations – in other words, how resilient they are. When NotPetya ransomware reared its head in 2016-17, many of the affected companies – which included manufacturers – resorted to decades-old manual processes to maintain operations. Those companies with newer, more digital processes, were at a complete loss.
While NotPetya seems worlds away from the current pandemic fallout, both incidents underscore the importance of having comprehensive business continuity plans in place. As businesses become more digitally-dependent, they need to understand and put in place measures to operate during, and quickly recover from, a period of disruption.
Understand the risks, reap the rewards
Manufacturers need to accept that while digital transformation has become a necessity, it amplifies the digital risks they face. They can no longer treat cyber-attack, supplier, privacy and resiliency risks as standalone, siloed. Rather, they must continually assess, monitor and manage such risks on a company-wide basis, involving experts and stakeholders from right across the business.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.