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Overcoming Safety and Security Challenges in Manufacturing

Despite the common goal of protecting the business, safety and security are somewhat separate problems that require a different approach to solving. Both remain hot topics in manufacturing, especially with respect to risk reduction. Fortunately, today’s technology solutions can work to improve both safety and security, sometimes solving both issues at once.

Safety Issues

There are varied contributors to safety incidents, but the vast majority of issues (80-90%) are ultimately attributed to human error. These errors can be things such as forgetting details, misunderstanding procedures, misidentifying a situation, and so on. As humans will always make mistakes, the potential for human error must be accounted for.  

Another possible contributing factor involves process conditions developing into unsafe situations. One example could be a factory that doesn't take regulations seriously.  These scenarios could become extremely dangerous, and tremendous caution should be employed to mitigate the danger.  

Equipment running under sub-optimal health is another category contributing to safety problems. When the machines start to wear and have the possibility of breakdown, they can cascade into further safety issues. The technician working on the damaged equipment is potentially exposed to unsafe conditions. Even with the advancement in robotics, there still need to be checks in place to ensure safety. 

Security Threats

On top of the safety risks above, an operation must also worry about security risks. Vandalism, theft, and labor disputes are all traditional sources of security concern.  

With the interconnectedness of today’s business environment, cybersecurity is also an important topic, and the attacks come in varied types. For example, employees can be conned into a phishing scam, where their passwords are stolen and used to break into company systems. Hackers can expose trade secrets, which can be then sold to the competition.  Ransomware can infect and take control of systems until the offender is paid a “ransom” to relinquish control.  

Outdated equipment and operating systems are particularly vulnerable. These devices often contain old loopholes and vulnerabilities that have not been patched.

Solving the Safety Puzzle

If human error is the underlying cause of most incidents, it should be the focus of every safety program. Luckily, modern technology can help manufacturing minimize these errors. Modern software can perform safety checks automatically – or force the operator to perform the tasks before the job starts. Machine sensors can be added to interlock the process when an unsafe condition appears.

A CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) can be employed to overcome safety issues in many different ways. First, it provides a centralized and standardized platform to track and re-code all maintenance activities. With predictive maintenance and a CMMS that is properly utilized, your assets can receive correct maintenance at the ideal time – before the breakdown occurs and causes a potentially unsafe situation.

Solutions for Security Issues

Physical security solutions are becoming more and more integrated with technology.  A review of the security megatrends confirms this belief.  Personnel monitoring is one tool that can help a site track its security threats.  For instance, by tracking worker location, the operation can know when a person enters an unauthorized area.  

Naturally, with the cybersecurity concern looming larger than ever, protecting the company’s digital assets is vital. As the line between physical and digital security becomes more blurred, the solutions for both are becoming integrated. Physical sensors and surveillance equipment can connect to the software, feeding data for the site to use.

With Artificial Intelligence, the facilities can now connect surveillance equipment with software to alert the security team before a potential issue occurs. The system could send an alert if someone passes into a restricted area or a certain vehicle enters the property line. Available solutions have become sophisticated enough to detect a specific person via facial recognition or specific vehicle via a license plate.  This way, security incidents can move to a prevented type, rather than reacted upon.

Enacting simple measures, like 2-factor authentication for employees can go a long way in avoiding cybersecurity issues. Keeping software updated and patched is necessary, as is upgrading old equipment to modern operating systems. Internal company data should be protected with proper encryption.

Even the simple step of keeping your electronics with sensitive or with intellectual property within your possession, to know they are at safe is a great step.

Conclusion

As scrutiny increases on today’s corporations, safety and security are more important than ever.  Modern manufacturing needs to understand the difference – both require similar strategies, but the details will differ. Knowing who you are going into business with and having a trusted resource that knows your manufacturer is both ethical and safe is key. In the end, a separate strategy for both safety and security must be enacted for the company to properly protect all of its assets and successfully deal with other modern manufacturing challenges.

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Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

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