By Jack Chopper, Chief Electrical Engineer, Filamatic, LLC
I have worked for an equipment OEM for more than 20 years, and I have become a staunch proponent of networking the manufacturing environment such that we realize maximum efficiency from the same. That is not to say that I am unaware of the security implications of doing so. Rather, I believe the gains far outweigh the risks when such networking is done properly and securely. I especially like the model where the individual control systems collect and forward data to a “disinterested”, i.e. uninvolved central server for storage. The data storage usually includes some form of a relational database allowing that nonmanufacturing system to sort, parse, analyze, present, and finalize for release.
Very few manufacturing processes can exist in isolation, and even fewer can do so efficiently. Intelligent decisions rely on underlying data, presented in ways so that ambiguities are absent, while in a form that fosters intelligent decisions. However, in order to have data available we must routinely and consistently collect, validate, process, and store it. We can’t afford the burden of performing these tasks manually. We must rely on computer systems to do that work.