IoT Meets CNC Machinery: IIoT Safety, Cybersecurity, And Industry Implications

Daphne Stanford

From CNC machine operation to occupational safety and cybersecurity concerns, the Internet of Things is shaking up industrial fields. Otherwise known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the place of smart devices in the manufacturing world is becoming central and part of the new horizon of industry. This ongoing phenomenon has several important implications for cybersecurity professionals, networking specialists, and the manufacturing industry as well.

In addition to new devices like collaborative robots—or cobots—there are a number of new technologies that are making CNC machining, specifically, and the manufacturing world, in general, infinitely more technologically advanced. As a result, workplaces stand a chance to become a great deal safer. However, the need for more foolproof cybersecurity measures is increasing as well, potentially leaving the IIoT world vulnerable to hackers if the shortage of cybersecurity professionals doesn’t improve at the same rate.

New IIoT and CNC machine technology

There are a number of technologies we have now that can be beautifully implemented with existing CNC machines, as well as new machines developing all the time, which will soon be expanding the limits of what is possible—such as with collaborative robots (a.k.a. cobots). For example, CNC machinists can utilize smart devices like iPads and smartphones to schedule machine maintenance, identify the angles of objects, plan cut courses, and research material durability.

According to Jack Uhl, sales manager at Consumer Products Group (CPG) for Yaskawa America, “Automation’s emergence in the food and agriculture industries is inevitable and already happening, and blue-collar workers in these fields don’t need to panic about job loss.” Proto Labs names a few specific smart manufacturing devices, such as small sensors and robot-controlled factory automation.

New occupational safety parameters

Workplace accidents have always been a huge concern in the manufacturing industry. Considering that strains and sprains make up 30% of all workplace injury claims, followed by punctures or cuts at 19%, it goes to show that occupational safety specialists have their work cut out for them for a long time yet. However, the nature of their jobs will change to include more smart and automated technology, as well as computer-operated and collaborative machines.

Moreover, robots will likely be able to fill in on some of the more dangerous machine-related tasks, rendering workers’ compensation claims less frequent and more unlikely, the greater the technology develops. Although many people erroneously see technology as the enemy, it’s preferable to see machine technology, cobots, and IIoT as fields in which manufacturing professionals like CNC machinists can develop skills, via continuing education, as technology is only going to continue growing and developing, as we advance further into the 21st century.

New cybersecurity concerns

As IIoT gains more prevalence in the manufacturing and industrial realms, more cybersecurity concerns are bound to come with it. Because cybersecurity is such a rapidly developing industry, it’s crucial for professionals in IIoT, specifically, to keep abreast of what’s new on the scene, like ransomware, typosquatting, and IoT issues. Moreover, it helps to pay attention to what industry experts like Brian Krebs, Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report, and McAfee’s 2017 Threats Predictions are saying.

For example, if anyone were ever to hack into collaborative robots meant to be integrated with lathes, mills, routers, or grinders while they were being operated, that security breach could spell disaster for the machinist currently using the cobots. Consider these statistics, if you’re in doubt: according to research conducted by HP Enterprise, “60% of the tested IoT devices raised ‘security concerns’ with their interfaces, including poor session management,” and “80% of devices either required no password or permitted passwords of insufficient complexity, such as ‘1234.’”

What do you think of the future of IIoT? Is your place of work beginning to implement any smart machinery or cobots, if you work in manufacturing? Are you interested in learning more about cybersecurity for IoT devices? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

For more on advanced technology in the manufacturing industry, see 4 Steps To Revolutionize Your Industrial Manufacturing.