Downtime in manufacturing can hit out of nowhere with a devastating impact on your business. Imagine you’re on the floor and it’s business as usual. The machines are humming along, you’re watching product after product in assembly. You’re on target to meet that day’s manufacturing quotas. Then suddenly everything grinds to a halt. The automated processes are no longer completing themselves. Production is at a standstill. Your network went down and took all the machines down with it. The calculator immediately starts running in your head and you dread having to report the financial losses of even just a few minutes to the rest of the team.
In today’s fast-paced world, we all know that time is money, but that’s not all at stake when it comes to manufacturing downtime. If the networks go down and your machines follow, it can have a devastating impact to your bottom line to the tune of up to $50,000 per minute, according to Manufacturing.net. Your employees, compliance, and many other factors may also be at risk, which may arguably pose a more serious threat to your organization’s longevity than the initial impact to the bottom line.
Today we’re going to take some time to discuss the current landscape around network downtime in the manufacturing industry, what can be done to manage the risks of outages, and how you can move toward a worry-free model of reliability and uptime, no matter what comes your way.
What are the Ways Your Network Can Be Disrupted, Causing Production Downtime?
Network disruptions happen for a multitude of reasons and any list you can find is nowhere near exhaustive, but there are several kinds of disruptions that are more likely to happen than others. Familiarize your IT team so you can create a business continuity plan or mitigate the risks associated with each type of outage so you can get back to business as usual as soon as possible.
Mother Nature can attack with a vengeance at the worst possible times. Natural disasters have a tendency to cause network disruptions or complete outages, depending on location and severity of the weather event. If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, flooding, tornadoes or even excessive snowstorms, you need to be aware of the risks posed by your location that may quite simply be beyond your control.
As inconvenient as this may be, you may feel like your network connectivity is at the whim of the elements, which is never a good place to be. As we move through this article, there will be tangible ways to limit the wrath Mother Nature can inflict upon your manufacturing operations.
Outages for Maintenance
Depending on your network provider, you may experience semi-regular outages for routine or emergency system maintenance. These stretches of downtime can last anywhere from a moment or two to hours or even a full business day.
A good network provider will do their best to ensure that these outages occur outside of typical operating hours, but this cannot always be the case. In manufacturing specifically, we know that your operations often continue around the clock and do not always allow for system maintenance in a way that does not impact your organization’s functionality.
As hard as it may be to think about, some of your biggest risks come from the team members who show up to work at your organization every day. Human error accounts for a significant portion of all downtime experienced in a given year.
It’s important to note that your employees are likely not acting maliciously and many of these outages are caused by either a lack of knowledge or a lack of attention to detail. Take a look at your employee education and engagement. If you see employees as unengaged or your training and continuing education efforts are lacking, you may be creating an insider threat problem that could have ramifications far into the future.
In the rare instance that an employee would choose to act maliciously against your organization, they may be doing things like selling information, sabotaging your power supply or even neglecting to make sure a bill is paid. If you’re not keeping an eye on employees for odd behavior patterns or signs of dissatisfaction, you should start doing so now as these can be key indicators that a network outage may be on the way.
When it comes to outages, we’d be remiss to avoid talking about malicious threat actors against your organization. These actors can come in many forms and are often the trickiest to contain and recover from. A few examples of malicious actions against your organization include:
- DDoS attacks
- Ransomware attacks
- Deliberate interruption of power supply
- Phishing attempts
- Theft of login credentials
Once again, this list is nowhere near exhaustive, but it is important to be vigilant. We’ll further discuss ways to mitigate your risk of these network attacks happening later on in the blog. But for now, think about your IT security strategy and whether or not you feel it has been given the attention it deserves to preserve your sensitive data and operational functionality.
Understand What’s at Stake with Network Downtime in Manufacturing
While cost is one of the more obvious impacts of manufacturing downtime, it’s important to gain a holistic perspective on what else you may be compromising when you’re locked in a battle to get your operations up and running again. Depending on what other industries your organization serves, you may encounter other ramifications based on their industry requirements and regulations too.
The Bottom Line
As we stated above, at the cost of $50,000 per minute, an outage is something most manufacturing companies can’t afford to have happen regularly. The costs of downtime in lost productivity, repairs, and more compound on each other the longer your network is down and your machines and systems are at a standstill. Additionally, any website downtime that you may experience will have a further impact on your bottom line due to lost transactions that would have occurred at that time.
When networks don’t work, your employees can’t either—or they’re more likely to replace automated operations with manual ones in the name of staying productive. While this is a great indicator of your team’s ingenuity, this increases your organization’s risk of workplace accidents, injuries or even death, depending on the type of machinery being operated and the employees’ qualifications to do so.
Additionally, when you are constantly battling network outages, many employees may become impatient and unengaged. This causes two major problems: your employees become more likely to seek new employment, AND they become much more likely to prove a risk to your organization due to that lack of attention and disengagement.
Every industry has their own compliance regulations and requirements, and manufacturing is no different. Additionally, if you serve another highly regulated industry, you may have to also adhere to some of their requirements as well. This might look like medical manufacturers having to adhere to elements of HIPAA compliance as well as OSHA and others.
If you’re experiencing downtime due to a security concern, your auditor may raise a red flag and it could complicate your ability to continue doing business with some of your major clients. Failure to remain in compliance with not only your industry but also some of your customers’ industry standards can cost you significant money moving forward. And that doesn’t even touch the fines for violations that you may incur in the process.
Let’s be honest: Your organization’s reputation is closely tied to your ability to get the job done and to deliver on your contracts on time. If you’re experiencing downtime due to network outages, you’re losing valuable time to meeting those contracts.
A reputation takes years to build and mere moments to destroy. When businesses lose time and miss deadlines, their clients are sure to make note and may choose to make different decisions about their supplier moving forward. If there is a major stretch of downtime or incident, there’s a high likelihood that your clients or potential clients will remember the outage and not the better qualities of your business. Losing one or two major clients can be enough to force a business to shutter its doors for good.
Mitigate the Risk of Downtime
If you feel like the rest of this blog painted a bleak picture, do not despair! All hope is not lost! There are many policies and strategies your business can implement to reduce the risk of outages, or mitigate and recover from unexpected downtime, should it occur. Downtime in manufacturing is shockingly common, so utilize these tactics to give your business a competitive edge when it comes to productivity and efficiency.
Look for Patterns in Your Downtime
If you know when, where, and how downtime occurs, you’re more likely to be able to prevent it. Carefully and accurately track when and where downtime occurs—you can invest in automatic trackers that give real-time notifications about the exact location and probable cause of your outages, whether mechanical or network-related. This gives you the opportunity to see patterns in downtime and better identify and tweak the vulnerable areas of your uptime strategy accordingly. Knowledge is power, and in this case, it gives you the power to make changes to prioritize the pain points.
Educate Employees to Reduce Inside Risk
We already know that educating employees is critical to operate at peak efficiency. Just as your employees on the floor need to know how to operate machinery properly, they also need to be well versed in network security as well as what to do in the event of network downtime. And as we stated above, educated, engaged employees are safe employees for both physical safety and network-safety.
Educate employees on the appropriate ways to utilize the company’s network, including training on phishing attempts and other common cybersecurity threats that may compromise your uptime. This shouldn’t just be a one-off training, but a regularly updated continuing education initiative that keeps employees up to date on emerging risks so they can act as human firewalls for the network that keeps your operations running.
Keep Your Security Up-To-Date
How is your organization’s cyber security? Is this an investment you’ve chosen to make or is it more of an afterthought? Your employees, once educated on proper cyber hygiene are a huge asset to your cybersecurity strategy, but human error still remains one of the leading causes of network downtime, so it’s critical that you have other network protections in place to mitigate that risk.
We know that many folks in manufacturing wear multiple hats in a day and the average staff might not have the bandwidth to take on another role in cybersecurity. Look at investing in managed security services to offload some of those responsibilities to the best experts in the industry. At the very least, you should look into DDoS protection, as that can quickly cripple a company’s IT infrastructure and take ages to resolve.
Look for a Redundant Network Provider
When it comes to network, redundancy isn’t a bad thing. A redundant network ensures a speedy, reliable experience for your operations, your team members, and automated machines. Low latency and always-on dependability give you the tools and the confidence to try innovative things with your applications, website, and end-user digital experience. Think of your network as the backbone to your company’s efficiency. A strong network with exceptional failover capabilities can set you up for a truly uninterrupted manufacturing environment that your competition simply can’t match.
There is significantly more risk of downtime when you’re not redundant, as providers without carrier diversity have higher rates of single-point failure. This can exponentially increase the risk of long stretches of downtime, leaving you and your employees or customers without access to your essential infrastructure. When you invest in a solid network provider, redundancy should be one of their highest priorities. Redundancy is all about business continuity. It involves putting fallback plans in place to ensure that your data, power, and hardware are covered in the event of an emergency and that your business stays operational no matter what.
LightEdge keeps you up and running, no matter what.
When asked about our differentiators, the first answer is always – our network. LightEdge designs all of our purpose-built facilities and services around connectivity first. That means unparalleled scale, redundancy, speed, and uptime for your business and the clients you serve.
We spent the last twenty years continuously perfecting our network and infrastructure and take pride in being the most scalable, redundant, and secure in the US. Today, LightEdge focuses on supporting the most highly regulated manufacturing organizations with our Tier III data centers and compliant cloud offerings. Throughout all of these exciting developments, there is one thing that continues to stay the same – everything we do is built around our unrivaled network.
We understand your top priorities when it comes to connectivity:
- Your applications are always up.
- Your applications are always fastfor end users.
Have confidence that LightEdge has built every inch of our network to deliver you just that.
We do understand that it may be too late in some instances and you may be actively trying to recover from an emergency. If your company is currently under attack, LightEdge is ready to step in and work with you to figure out a solution. Let’s schedule a call today to talk about how we can work together toward zero downtime.