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Manufacturers: Include security in your worker empowerment

  • Posted on September 21, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Secure Worker Empowerment

Manufacturing companies face significant challenges, heightened by COVID-19, affecting supply chain, customer engagement, and workforce safety and support in a hybrid work environment.

The work environment is changing rapidly, along with increased pressure on talent. In fact, remote or hybrid work practices will not only become the norm in back-office functions but also in front line production, engineering and product design. Half of all manufacturing in certain industries can and will be done remotely by 2024, according to Gartner. But doing it successfully calls for a new level of holistic thinking on the part of leaders to empower their workers. New ways of working, collaborating as well as skilling and assisting workers whilst keeping them safe will become de facto. These new ways of working will be enabled through digital tooling and access to data insights.

We are seeing an accelerated take-up of such ways of working, requiring new operational best practices to ensure worker effectiveness and safety. New ways of working also require different security measures as employees start to act in connected ways across supply chain, operations and customers, creating an evolving threat landscape.

Where only office workers or engineers once had a laptop, now most employees will have increasing access through phones, tablets, or immersive and collaborative capabilities – including many remote and connected locations. The increased security vulnerabilities calls for significant change in security procedures and capabilities.

One size doesn’t fit all
Not all workers face the same level or type of risk, so a one-size-fits-all approach to secure worker empowerment won’t work. Shop-floor workers for example, might need just-in-time access to skills acquisition and online support – such as from remote engineering teams. For both training and production, they need immersive technologies such as HoloLens. Such tools and technologies enable access to intellectual property and need to be bullet-proof against bad actors.

On the other hand, field-service workers have different needs in a different environment. They need to be empowered with more customer data to deliver better-focused customer service and to take advantage of their face-to-face customer interaction to augment the sales function. All that customer data is sensitive, requiring enhanced protection levels. And manufacturers also have to protect the personal data – such as bodycam and geo-location data – that field workers generate while serving customers.

You need a holistic approach
The holistic approach to secure worker empowerment means using the right technologies across people and processes whilst aligning with the wider digital change within the organization.

To achieve this, most manufacturers are moving to an approach of continuous change rather than big bang deployments.; infusing security capabilities within the approach and raising the organizations digital maturity. Manufacturers who increase their digital maturity are becoming more resilient, productive and responsive across their ecosystems of employees, customers and partners acting with confidence in a secure environment.

Beyond technology, organizational change management is needed to instill the workplace values that will make new policies and processes really stick. Of course, the manufacturer’s workforce is a dynamic mix, with employee churn and the continual roles and skills changes. So, the innovation around secure worker empowerment has to be just as continual to keep up.

Where to begin?
With such a large sweep of factors to consider in developing a secure worker empowerment approach, where is a manufacturer to begin? Here are some first steps we generally help manufacturers to take:

  1. Conduct a census to understand your current worker roles, how those roles are implemented today, and how they, as well as new roles, will need to be implemented tomorrow.
  2. Establish a plan that aligns the business goals your workers need to meet with your security strategy. That entails mapping the results of your census of worker activity against the requirements of your corporate security policies, regulatory compliance needs and contractual obligations. Build both short- and long-term maps to guide you.
  3. Identify the components of the plan that you can implement via in-house resources, and those that could benefit from outside resources. Engage that assistance early to reduce the risk and cost of re-work.
  4. Act early to establish governance as part of your plan. Good governance should anticipate future concerns as well as address present ones, smoothing the way for a secure worker empowerment program over the long-term.

Could you benefit from talking these issues through with a knowledgeable advisor? Avanade has more than 3,000 manufacturing specialists and works with most of the world’s largest manufacturers. This year, Avanade and Accenture were named the 2021 Microsoft Global Alliance SI Partner of the Year for the 16th time, as well as the Automotive Partner of the Year, a finalist for Manufacturing Partner of the Year, and Microsoft Security 20/20 Winner for Zero Trust champion—SI.

We can help you with your manufacturing and security strategies, or get you started with a cybersecurity assessment.

Contact us today to learn more about how a secure manufacturing strategy can work for you.

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