A recent study by IT market research firm Vanson Bourne states that nearly a quarter of UK firms in the manufacturing sector do not provide WiFi, even in the office. Half of these firms cite lack of security as the reason for the decision.
I don’t know if the figures correlate throughout Europe, but I’ve heard that security fears are an issue for many of our readers where WiFi is involved.
It’s absolutely understandable. Process parameters, material recipes, product designs, delivery information, client databases - if these fall into the wrong hands (a competitor, or worse, someone looking to plagiarise your designs) it’s game over. Not just because of the initial threat to intellectual property etc., but because for most small to medium manufacturers, funding a lengthy court battle could swallow up cashflow; add to this the potential interruption in production while the matter is resolved, and it’s a recipe for disaster.
Despite this apparent anxiety about the connection of manufacturing supply chains to the web, and more recently, the cloud, certain IT firms are now marketing the phrase ‘Big Data’ around the processing sector. It has been described as a so-called ‘revolution in software development’. Is it though?
Certainly innovation in recent years has ushered in the ability for processors to mobilise their staff, allowing remote access to machines, delivery implementation and so on. This is undeniably a sign of the times, and has great potential to boost productivity (though many are concerned that there may be safety issues, and with good reason).
But Big Data in processing? Storing millions of gigabytes of product analyses, machine settings and other critical data in an invisible space may seem unnerving and unnatural to many, but then, is this such a huge leap from ERP? In fact, is it any different? Aside from a new method of storage, and the increase in the sheer volume of information (is that why it’s ‘Big’?) I’m not convinced that the two things are actually two things.
So with that in mind, is new software and new connectivity really something to be afraid of? Data stored on a hard drive is surely just as susceptible to theft and fire as data stored in the cloud?
My final question for you, the processing community, is this: if you do choose to embrace it, once you have your Big Data, what do you do with it? This is not a cynic’s question, more a curious enquiry. It’s been said that a gas turbine being monitored with new analytics software produces 500GB of reportable data per day. Twitter, in comparison produces just 80GB per day. I reckon that I view about 0.2KB of the data on Twitter every day (that’s still a lot) so who has time to peruse 500GB?
I repeat, I’m not a cynic, but I am interested - please do comment below with your thoughts.