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Data Woes Stifling Manufacturing, Adding to Cyber Challenges

A new report uncovers the complex issues surrounding the use and defense of Industry 4.0.

New research by Forrester Consulting for Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence shows that almost all manufacturers are struggling with data issues, impacting their ability to roll out advanced technologies. This leaves them at risk of being left behind their rivals, the report reveals. Specific findings include:

  • 98 percent of manufacturers report at least one issue with data within their organization. Leaders are considering real-time collaboration, AI and automation, but persistent data challenges stifle innovation and impede the roll-out of such advanced manufacturing technologies. 
  • These data woes contributed to 97 percent of manufacturers facing challenges in collaboration and productivity, which can impact their ability to innovate and delay responding to customers’ needs. 
  • The majority of business leaders realize that better collaboration can improve product quality (88 percent), time to market (86 percent) and sustainability, with 82 percent of respondents believing better communication between design and manufacturing teams can significantly reduce material waste and emissions.
  • Despite this, almost three-quarters (71 percent) are concerned about the lack of synergy between their design and manufacturing teams. 
  • Only two percent of manufacturers claimed to be problem-free with their data practices.
  • 37 percent of manufacturers are falling behind their rivals and should be considered ‘laggards’, as they have failed to highly or fully automate any phase of their manufacturing process. This is compared to a quarter of manufacturers that should be considered the ‘leaders’ in the market, as they have highly or fully automated at least two phases of their manufacturing processes.  
  • Additionally, 58 percent of leaders report increased staff productivity and innovation, versus 35 percent of laggards.

What About Cybersecurity?

While the report didn't go into detail about how this data impacts cybersecurity challenges and solutions, it's not difficult to connect the dots. Organizations that struggle with implementing new technologies, along with accessing and sharing the data being generated by current software and automated processes, would seem to also have issues with protecting any OT assets.

While some might point to a lack of technology and data management platforms as limiting the attack surface and potentially making their enterprise less palatable to hackers, this mindset has been proven wrong numerous times throughout the industrial sector. The reality is that in order to improve operational efficiency and stay competitive, investments in the areas addressed by Hexagon's research are essential. But just as essential is working hand-in-hand with IT and OT teams to ensure all these platforms are being integrated with cybersecurity in mind.

Accompanying these priorities should be well-defined and thorough plans and strategies for managing, monitoring and updating these OT assets with the proper cybersecurity protocols. Essentially, this report not only identifies the numerous missed opportunities from a technological investment perspective, but as a reminder of the role cybersecurity needs to play when developing plans for introducing these new tools into the organization. 

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