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IT and Communications for Manufacturing Companies – The Fundamentals

It’s impossible to understate just how important the growth of the manufacturing industry has been to the overall prosperity of the UK economy. Dating back to the early iron, textile and shipbuilding factories which drove the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, right up to the latest battery Giga factories planned for the coming years.

Whilst modern factories and manufacturing processes are completely different today, not to mention far less lethal, the importance of streamlined operations which drive business growth is still essential to your business and the overall economy. Just like any good production line, your overall IT Strategy should have a well-planned, robust process at its core.

Even though your operations may be less physically dangerous, as a manufacturing business owner or operations manager, you need to have an increased awareness of the growing opportunities and risks to your business that can be found in the digital world too.

How can manufacturing companies protect their critical data?

In the same way that your warehouses are full of valuable assets, your computer servers are also filled with sensitive information about you and your customers. As such, you should be taking additional steps and measures to make sure that your data is stored securely and can be quickly restored should the worst happen.

Why manufacturing businesses need strong and adaptive cybersecurity

There are a number of methods cybercriminals use to target business IT infrastructures that you should be aware of.

Targeting your companies’ intellectual property In competitive industries such as manufacturing, business information is extremely valuable given the edge this can provide over the competition. So, imagine if a competitor got their hands on your production line intellectual property. Not really a situation that any business wants to be in and yet something that is becoming increasingly common.

Ransomware attacks Time is money, but this is particularly true when you’re responsible for the operations of a 24-hour manufacturing operation! Therefore, hackers can target any part of your IT infrastructure to take you offline, from servers to the daily software you access to run your business. If successful, hackers will demand thousands of pounds to hand back access to your network. However, there is still the risk that they will make your data available on the dark web.

Accessing your customer data If you operate in a sensitive industry such as healthcare, defence, or even food manufacturing, then the nature of your customers means that your data can be a desirable asset for hackers. As government agencies and large companies have scaled up their own online security, cybercriminals are increasingly looking at the wider supply chain for vulnerabilities to exploit.

Technology to combat offline threats It’s estimated that over 65% of all theft from Amazon is by members of staff. You can find countless examples of company theft when searching online! This is not to say that your dedicated and hardworking team members should be viewed with mistrust, but companies will inadvertently hire the occasional bad apple. To reduce the chance of theft or damage to your products and equipment, access control, CCTV and other technologies should be employed to protect your assets.

Why manufacturing businesses need secure data backup

If your business relies on a billing platform or CRM to handle orders and interact with clients, then it is safe to say that when your hardware fails, you will be unable to operate and make money. The average cost of downtime per hour sits at £4,000+ and is rising. How many customers or orders would you lose during just one hour or day of downtime, and how much would you be paying to staff for an operation that is unable to run? Your current data backup, or lack thereof, could be a disaster waiting to happen.

A cloud data backup service provider will duplicate and store your data, for easy and quick retrieval in the event of hardware failure or data loss. Hardware failure is responsible for up to 45% of data loss. A reputable data backup provider will give you a snapshot from a specific point in time, to quickly recover your data and get your manufacturing business back up and running.

Your IT company should provide you with an effective data backup and disaster recovery plan, so if you do lose any key information then this can be restored quickly.

Common manufacturing IT problems & how to solve them

In addition to the external risks posed by hackers, it’s important to be aware of the wider operational problems impacting the day-to-day running of your manufacturing company.

Connectivity issues in manufacturing causing downtime or delays

The problem In a world of just-in-time supply chains and the increased pressures around them, the costs of downtime or even the slightest delay in your production process are even greater than ever. At the same time, more and more of your manufacturing process is likely to count on a reliable, fast and effective internet connection.

The solution There are several ways to increase the reliability of your internet connectivity, depending on the type of connection you’re using. Although your connection speeds can be boosted, an effective manufacturing operation should be taking a blended approach to connectivity, working ideally with Fibre To The Premises broadband as well as wireless broadband as a backup connection – to automatically deliver connectivity in the event of your primary connection going down.

Ineffective internal communications between staff

The problem Busy team members often move around your factory premises as part of their roles, and in many cases, they can be big spaces! Therefore, manufacturing companies need an effective communication system to allow staff to communicate easily internally, without running up significant costs.

The solution Internet-hosted phone systems have become the best way to cost-effectively operate your business telecoms, allowing straightforward communications between staff members. The latest systems, such as our latest offering Wildix Collaboration, also include powerful features to streamline how you communicate with staff, such as standard calls, video calls and chat features – all of which can be accessed from a mobile app or laptop. This cloud-based technology allows you to easily communicate with your team members on the factory floor, from your own mobile devices.

Ongoing IT support in a busy factory setting

The problem – Manufacturing sites can be busy and sometimes dangerous places, with restricted access and even hazardous materials. This means that it can be difficult for operations managers to provide on-site access to servers, laptops, or the other hardware your IT company may need to look at to fix your common IT problems.

The solution – When set up correctly, all aspects of your IT support and communication strategy can be accessed on a remote basis. This means your IT company should have full transparency on your overall systems, along with the ability to log in to fix any problems and get you back online quickly. This can also include proactive system monitoring to identify any pressure points or potential issues before they become a more serious problem.

What next for my manufacturing business?

Are your current IT and communication systems supporting peak performance? Or are you about to scale up to a new location and want to make sure you’re IT setup is right? Our team of IT experts are on hand to guide you through this process.


See how we helped Applied Nutrition UK when they scaled up to a new 45,000 square foot manufacturing facility >


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