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Top 3 Reasons Manufacturers Aren’t Connecting to the Cloud

The Internet and cloud computing movements are gaining momentum and in full swing in many sectors in our society, including banking, healthcare, education, government, the services industry in general, and almost all areas of our personal life. Yet, despite the advent of IIoT technologies and Industry 4.0, and all the glitter and spectacular promise it appears to offer, many manufacturers are reluctant to connect their machines, assembly lines or processes to the internet. Why is that?

I have spent many hours in many plants in recent years, and this conversation has come up often. Here’s what I believe are the top 3 reasons manufacturers aren’t connecting their machines to the internet, starting with #3.

#3: Older ‘Legacy’ Equipment is Expensive to Upgrade

Many manufacturers have a wide variety of machine types, especially job shops and companies with many discrete manufacturing processes. The cost to upgrade them all with newer control systems is high, not to mention difficult, and the cost to replace them even higher. Since the machine continues to produce an acceptable quantity and quality of parts in its current state, the cost of the upgrade would have a long ROI.

#2: Security Concerns

This is a concern I hear about most often. Yes, all the other sectors above have the same concerns but have counted on the security systems built into the technology as well their own IT people, firewalls and strict policies, but many manufacturers I speak with remain unconvinced. Manufacturers are ‘tactile’ people, and their processes are equally ‘tactile’; its not numbers in an account, or an electronic transaction, or a video or a document, it’s a physical action, movement and part being produced. The thought of a machine being taken control of by an outside source is a scary proposition. Equally disconcerting is the thought that all their critical and sensitive production and product information is not securely locked down in their internal IT system, but it would be stored somewhere “out there”, outside of their four walls, and potentially available to others through hacking. The larger the manufacturing company is, the more serious the concern for this kind data.

#1: Little or No Perceived Benefit to Connect Their Machine to the Internet

For most manufacturers I speak with, this is true for them. The information they need access to is information needed in the plant, by people in the plant. By the time a machine is commissioned for production in a plant, there is little benefit to collect ‘lakes’ of data on all sorts of granular process information. At this point, the company is just looking for what I refer to as “fit bit” information: is the machine or process healthy? What’s its rate? How many parts did it produce? And, if it’s not running, why not? All this information is pretty simple to extract even from legacy machines at a very low cost, but there’s little or no benefit to pushing it up to the cloud – certainly not enough benefit to offset their security concerns. So why bother?

There are good reasons to make more information more accessible to more people in real time, most notable being productivity and efficiency, but it can be accomplished without connecting the machine directly to the internet. The biggest advantage of cloud-based software is the low cost of powerful and flexible software available that is easily adaptable and accessible from anywhere. Manufacturing companies need these kinds of IT solutions to remain competitive, and indeed to stay ahead, but they can do so by leveraging cloud-based solutions that help their people be more productive, without connecting their machines to the internet.

Final Thoughts

At FreePoint, the focus has always been on making the people smarter, because its people that make the machines run better and the processes run smoother. They are the ones that can most benefit from a connection to the cloud, not the machines. The connection to the machine can be indirect and ‘non-invasive’ (i.e. impossible to control externally). There are still some security risks to allowing use of cloud-based software, but those should be managed the same as all other personal cloud-based applications need to be.

For more information on FreePoint’s risk mitigated cloud-based machine monitoring and productivity improvement solutions, please visit www.getfreepoint.com or contact paul.hogendoorn@getfreepoint.com

How FreePoint Ensures IIoT Data Security

According to Million Insights, by 2025 the Industrial Internet of Things market will be valued at $933.62 billion. As we continue to unify our cyber and physical systems, vulnerabilities emerge that didn’t exist before the Industry 4.0 revolution.

The Importance of IIoT Security

Security blue finger print scan FreePoint TechnologiesIIoT, or, the Industrial Internet of Things creates networks of connected industrial devices that collect, record and assess data to provide manufacturers with better insight into their production processes. As these devices interface with your machinery, IIoT security ensures that your hardware and software remain secure and protected from malicious intent.

According to IndustryWeek.com:

“if the devices that are connected become compromised and the threat has access to that communication link, a hacker can then push malicious data, cause denial of service (DoS), or introduce viruses to the entire network.”

Before industry 4.0, machinery operated separately and isolated from one another. Taking preventative measures will ensure external entities can’t access your data or impact your machine’s functionality.

How FreePoint Enforces Machine & Data Security

As with any IoT network, sensors and applications must remain protected from operational technology (OT). Without protection, compromised devices can serve as doorways to siphon data, insert foreign code and even halt production.

At FreePoint, we have developed an approach to ensure that the security and integrity of our client’s machines and data is protected. Primarily, we accomplish this by maintaining an “air-gap”. An “air-gap” can be defined as “a security measure that ensures total isolation of a given system from other networks, especially those that aren’t secure”.

As stated by our Vice President during a recent interview with CIO Applications: “FreePoint’s non- invasive solution involves using sensors instead of attaching hardware to a programmable logic controller (PLC). The solution does not interfere with machine operations nor is it a route for cyber-attacks on the machinery”. Because there is no physical connection between our solutions and the manufacturer’s machines, we can improve security while significantly reducing the possibility of cyber-attacks.

Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about how you can maintain a secure IIoT network. One of our reps would be happy to speak with you!

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