[Updated with correct name spelling.] Manufacturing companies began a digital journey decades ago. I began a digital project in 1978. Digital is one thing. Connectivity is another. My customer in 1994 told me he would never allow a wire from a PLC to anything else (other than I/O of course) as long as he was the controls leader. By 1999 he was retired and the plant had some connected controllers.

He was right, though. The concern was risk. And that was before anyone knew anything about cybersecurity. But there was risk of someone breaking in and messing with the program and settings. 

And risk was a key word as I was introduced to BT, a networking and IT company, through an interview with global manufacturing lead Jose Gastey. He told me connected boxes leads to risks and liability. There is a constant tension between efficient services and risk. This was my introduction to BT. I had not interviewed anyone from there before.

Three Key Words, Connectivity, Collaboration, Cybersecurity

Gastey told me, “BT as a company had to change. The question was how to provide security around data that customers expect us to transmit for them. Last year BT invested in Safe Security. We can talk about financial risk alongside risk of data loss and hacking.”

Manufacturing has made tremendous investments in digital technologies and connectivity. That come with a risk. According to the 2021 NTT Global Threat Intelligence Report, threat actors have made manufacturing one of the five most targeted industries seven times over the last nine years. Cyber-espionage, data theft and other types of digital attacks have become the norm rather than the exception.

BT industry sales representatives have an additional security tool in their toolbox of solutions for their clients. The Safe Security SAFE (‘Security Assessment Framework for Enterprises’) platform allows organisations to take a health check of their existing defences and understand their likelihood of suffering a major cyber attack.

SAFE is unique in calculating a financial cost to customers’ risks and giving actionable insight on the steps that can be taken to address them. The platform ultimately enables organisations to surgically target gaps in their defences, and already protects multiple Fortune 500 companies and governments around the world.

Sustainability, 5G and Ecosystem

Before leaving the briefing, Gastey told me about two other BT emphases of interest to manufacturing—sustainability and 5G/WiFi6 networks.

“Sustainability adds another layer,” said Gastey. BT has joined with Cisco and Global Data to compile data about global sustainability. In this context, the focus here is reduction of energy consumption.

BT works with private 5G and WiFi6. Gastey says scaling is crucial element. “Engineers install 5G in a plant,” he says, “and business managers say, this is great. Now, roll out to 200 plants. But that is hard. There are too many differences from plant to plant. Solving scaling is a big problem.”

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