Balancing machine connectivity with cybersecurity risks

Mike Grob
| 10/9/2023
Balancing machine connectivity with cybersecurity risks

Metals companies that want to stay competitive must collect data from their machines to make informed decisions and increase productivity. Realizing the full benefits of using machine data increasingly requires companies to connect their machines to cloud infrastructure or applications.

However, sharing and storing information in the cloud provides threat actors with new points of access and makes companies more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Furthermore, advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) add yet another layer of security concerns for metals leaders. Increased risk and amplified uncertainty can make many decision-makers hesitant to take the next step in embracing technology.

According to the Crowe “2023 Technology in Metals Survey Insights,” 63% of metals leaders see cybersecurity as the number-one IT-related risk – a percentage that has risen year over year. Despite the increased concern, survey respondents have also expressed increased interest in using advanced technologies such as AI, machine learning, and data science.

Metals leaders can benefit from understanding misconceptions about cybersecurity risks. As leaders gain greater clarity about cybersecurity safety measures, they can become more confident about machine connectivity and emerging technologies.

Insights in your inbox
Discover how metals businesses are stepping into the future of the industry by subscribing to Metals 4.0.

Misconceptions about cybersecurity risks in connected manufacturing

Cybersecurity risks should not be ignored or diminished, but many metals leaders are unable to move forward with needed digital transformation projects because of concerns about potential security events. Following are a few examples of common beliefs held by metals leaders and the reality of perceived risks.

Connecting to the cloud requires a big project or investment

Misconception: Safely digitizing operations requires a big initiative, a lot of money, or expensive new machines and equipment. The thought of such an enormous undertaking can prompt metals leaders to put off making changes.

Reality: Embracing cloud technology can be done in incremental steps that help prove the value and return on investment (ROI) without a large, up-front investment.

On-premises solutions are safer than the cloud

Misconception: Using the cloud to store and share data seems riskier than using an on-premises solution. Because the cloud is unfamiliar and understanding how security is managed can be difficult, some metals leaders might delay implementing a cloud platform.

Reality: Metals leaders often underestimate how integral security is in cloud deployments. Cloud solutions have one-way protocols and communication, which allow for more robust security. When metals companies use platforms created by established companies such as Microsoft that have extensive security measures in place, they can be more confident in safely accessing the data they need.

Current operations are working well enough

Misconception: Machine connectivity isn’t necessary because operations appear to be running smoothly. Some metals leaders might shy away from fixing what isn’t broken.

Reality: If metals leaders can’t test their machines and gather the data to show how machines are running, they risk losing efficiency, which can affect cost and margin. But given today’s competitive market, metals companies should consider taking the next steps in machine connectivity to maximize productivity. Fortunately, it’s possible to move forward and make sure company data remains secure.

3 steps metals leaders can take to secure machine connectivity

While hesitation certainly exists, metals companies can take steps to help reduce cybersecurity risks as they embrace technology.

1. Start simply

Metals leaders might benefit from determining one area in which they’d like to introduce or expand machine connectivity. For example, an immediate goal might be to connect one machine or one production line. Once benefits are demonstrated, leaders can implement machine connectivity through a more diverse set of production lines or locations.

The first step is for key stakeholders to decide on a proof-of-concept business case. Then they can outline a road map that includes a starting point and next steps once initial wins are secured. It’s critical to align everyone on the steps and goals, clearly define a road map, and articulate necessary information across functions.

2. Enlist a guide

Third-party teams that specialize in helping metals companies accomplish their goals and securely establish machine connectivity can be helpful. It’s important for metals leaders to find a guide that can collaborate with them to identify objectives, determine goals for data once collected, and set realistic expectations about business impact. The digital transformation journey can be complex, and projects toward that effort can take longer than anticipated and cost more than planned. Having a guide can help companies achieve digital transformation safely, according to established timelines, and within budget.

3. Secure proof-of-concept and iterate

Starting simply can help metals leaders prove that machine connectivity is possible and that it can yield valuable data and significant ROI. For example, testing one area first can allow key stakeholders to see that machine connectivity is effective and secure. Once the advantages are demonstrated, metals leaders can continue taking steps in their digital transformation journey.

Work with Crowe and connect with confidence

Although cybersecurity risks and common misconceptions might seem like valid reasons to put off connecting your machines to the cloud, now is the time to take action. Many metals companies are using data to gain a competitive advantage in the market, and the good news is that you don’t have to wait any longer. It’s possible to take small steps forward, put security measures in place, and stay within budget.

At Crowe, we know how daunting digital transformation, machine connectivity, and cloud computing can be. Our team of specialists has decades of experience helping metals companies like yours. We can help answer any questions you have, guide you along your journey, and help you build a road map so you can reach your data-driven goals. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Contact us

Mike Grob
Mike Grob
Principal, Consulting