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Identity management enables a changing industrial workforce

From collaboration to cobots to contract workers, you need secure IIoT access

Do you remember talking about the smart factory of the future? That’s so 2016! Today, three-quarters of manufacturers say they are working on smart factory initiatives. The widespread implementation of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices is driving these hyper-connected production facilities. A 2019 survey from Tech Pro Research found 82% of companies were working with or piloting IIoT.

In their report, “Machine Dreams: Making the most of the Connected Industrial Workforce,” Accenture shared the story of Siemens’ ‘lights out’ factory, a factory with fully automated production lines that can run unsupervised for up to a week. There may be no one on the production lines but the facility still employs over one thousand people. Connected manufacturing requires a different kind of workforce, whose daily tasks involve continual access to the IIoT-driven environment around them.

This move to intelligent production doesn’t reduce the manufacturing workforce so much as transform it. Traditional roles are being replaced by skills around data science, programming, monitoring and maintenance. A few years back, Accenture coined the phrase ‘connected industrial workforce’ to describe this trend– estimating it could unlock $500 million in extra profitability for an automotive manufacturer with annual revenues of $50 billion.

Is IIoT the new BYOD?

When people started to wonder why they had duplicate technologies for their work and personal lives, it was obvious that you should find a way to give secure access to corporate resources from personal devices. A whole range of Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions were developed to support Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).

A very similar thing is happening for IIoT devices – only the challenge is much greater. With BYOD, you could at least map one user to one device. That’s not possible for an IIoT device where there is any number of people who want access to its data, and the number and type of people requiring access will change throughout the lifecycle of the device.

If MDM grew up for mobile, we need to implement Secure Device Management in every IIoT environment. It provides the tools to manage the lifecycle of every IIoT device installed and the relationship it has with other people, devices and systems on the network.

Perhaps one of the most frightening findings from Accenture’s recent research is that over a quarter of respondents used features in their ERP system to manage their IIoT devices. This has to be like trying to eat soup with chopsticks! Even the best ERP system was not designed to secure an ecosystem of hundreds, thousands or millions of IIoT devices. Even where the situation is simpler, it’s still going to be a challenge.

Let me explain.

The Cobots are coming

Cobots are transforming industrial robotics and the global market is set to grow from $710 million in 2018 to $12.3 billion in 2025. But cobots pose specific identity management challenges to organizations.

Let’s look at an example. Jim works in a distribution center and works as a cobot driver. He oversees the collaborative robot (aka cobot) as it speeds around the facility automatically picking items for dispatch. Jim works well with his cobot and, in this 24-hour facility, so do the other six operators who also use the machine. Each has to be granted temporary access to the device and have that access automatically suspended at the end of their shift. And, the operators aren’t the only ones who need access rights.

The third-party maintenance contractor sold its services on the excellent predictive maintenance it offers. They’ll need access to specific machine data in addition to access to specific locations that will need to be governed and recorded.

Then there’s the operations team who want to analyze the data to improve productivity and safety within the facility or the sales and marketing team who want to use warehouse automation as a differentiator. Collaboration around the data from IIoT devices is seen as one of its major benefits with research showing that multiple departments are involved.

All these people need varying degrees of access to that single IIoT device at different times. And, of course, this isn’t the only device that they’re going to need access to.

The challenge of temporary or transient staff

Some analysts have seen cobots as a driver for organizations to bring back their offshored production. As labor costs rise in places like China, intelligent factories become more attractive and can be closer to major markets. However, this also increases the challenge of finding the right skills.

Estimates suggest that 22% of the manufacturing workforce in the US is set to retire and that new digital and analytics skills are hard to find. According to Deloitte, manufacturers expect that over the next three years it will become three times as difficult to fill positions where skills shortage are rated as very high — positions such as digital talent, skilled production, and operational managers.

To overcome this gap, companies are increasingly turning to temporary and contract workers. While policies and procedures are well established to allow these workers secure access to corporate systems, the same isn’t true for IIoT devices. The correct levels of secure access rights have to be quickly assigned–temporary workers can’t wait days or weeks to become productive–and access needs to be immediately terminated at the end of their employment.

The role of the identity-driven IIoT platform

With the new generation of identity management platforms for IIoT – such as the OpenText™ Covisint Identity Platform – you already have the capabilities to effectively manage all the entities on your IIoT network and the relationships between them. An identity-driven IIoT platform provides the secure device management you need to authenticate every device on the network and provide the correct levels of access to everyone who needs it.

How IIoT is transforming manufacturing is one of the key topics we’ll be addressing at Enterprise World 2019. Register today.

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Bob Slevin

Bob Slevin is the Director of Product Marketing for IoT at OpenText. Bob is an Internet of Things (IoT) architect and evangelist with more than 25 years’ experience in telecommunications spanning Military and Private sectors. He has collaborated with partners to deploy millions of connected devices across business and consumer markets. An IoT thought leader with an MBA in Technology Management, Bob is focused on identifying business challenges and building innovative solutions to improve operational efficiencies, drive growth and mitigate risks.

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