By Neil Desrosiers, application engineer/developer/MTConnect® specialist, Mazak
POSTED ON 4/23/2021 – The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) makes it possible for manufacturers to measure and analyze the performance of their machine tools so they can boost their productivity and profitability. As the supply-chain disruptions of the global pandemic demonstrated, the ability to work remotely, understand machine behavior and use these two aspects of digitization to maintain throughput offers huge advantages for decision making and business continuity. But these advantages require data connectivity, which in turn demands cybersecurity to protect against loss, corruption or espionage. Machine tools require additional precautions specific to their unique networking needs as well as their immediate and long-term data use cases.
The benefits of IIoT – data sharing and analytics for productive decision making – have become well known, but full understanding of the cybersecurity needs of networked machine tools continues to lag behind. Cybersecurity relies on two key elements: connectivity and standardized data transport. Traditional approaches to data sharing via USB thumb drives can lead to accidental corruption from malware. Automation integrators who add cellular devices for installation monitoring can create inadvertent network vulnerabilities. Legacy devices that rely on outdated operating systems are easy targets for computer viruses. A ransomware infestation could require replacement of corrupted storage devices on machine controllers. In short, the more accessible the data, the greater the likelihood of risk.
Along with coming to terms with the real risks of lax cybersecurity, manufacturers also must understand the importance of setting up their IIoT installations to handle both current and potential future data-acquisition needs. When shops add IIoT and process monitoring, they may begin with an immediate interest in only one application – machine monitoring, file transfer or data sharing, to name three popular options – but almost inevitably, their needs will expand in the future. How they initially set up their digitalization and networking will determine how – or whether – their setup will grow and expand with them.