biometric security
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Why Manufacturers are Choosing Biometric Security

Biometric security is quickly becoming mainstream technology for small- and midsized industrial manufacturers.   Once considered appropriate technology for higher security points and industries like hospitals, airports, and banking, biometrics is on its way to regular adoption by the average production plant.   Below are several reasons to explain why this is happening.

What is Biometric Security

Biometric security includes any type of security technology using unique physical characteristics of individuals as a control method.  These include voice patterns, retina patterns, facial recognition,  fingerprints, and even heartbeat rhythms.  Because these patterns are nearly impossible to forge, they offer several advantages over traditional security options, including speed, reliability, accuracy, and automatic authentication.

biometric security

Cybersecurity Risks are Increasing

Security risks within the manufacturing industry are on the rise as the world becomes more interconnected.  These risks were made clear by a 2018 EEF industry association report.  It noted nearly half of manufacturers had suffered some form of cyber-attack on their facilities.  Of those affected, 24% endured some kind of financial or customer loss resulting from the breach.  Additionally, it’s likely those numbers are underrepresenting the problem as some cyber-attacks go unnoticed by facilities completely if they are unsuccessful.

But the need to fend off such attacks will continue to increase. Manufacturers will need the ability to assure customers and other companies within their supply chain that data, information, and intellectual property are secure within their possession. Biometric devices offer nearly-automatic data encryption and supply chain security authentication and help alleviate such concerns.

Speed is important

Traditionally used technologies like passwords, keycards, and multi-step encryption already provide some level of security within many manufacturing organizations.  But they have weaknesses and issues. 

One of the most troubling issues with all traditional security technologies is speed.  Keycards are cumbersome.  Any multi-step process takes extra time.  If multiple authentications and e-signatures are required throughout a worker’s shift, the overall impact on productivity may be significant.  Even ten minutes per shift per worker in a small production team of fifty people can translate to over 40 man hours lost per week (10 minutes x 50 people x 5 days=2500 minutes or 41.66 hours). 

Additionally, while passwords and keycards provide some protection, they’re not tied to any particular individual.  They can be stolen, lost, or misappropriated.  Passwords can be forgotten, and often are.  Well-designed randomly-generated passwords with special characters and long strings of letters and numbers are difficult to remember.  They also need to be changed often to be fully effective.  This in itself is cumbersome and time consuming.

Biometric devices use discrete biometric patterns that are unique to that particular user.  They cannot be “faked” and don’t need to be changed.  This kind of authentication ensures the person signing in to a specific machine or location can only be the person who should be signing in.

Compliance Issues are Simplified

Manufacturers in many industries are required to adhere to a number of different federal, state, local and industry regulations.   These regulations cover everything from the functionality of equipment, to labeling and packaging, to health and safety of workers, and everything in between. In fact,  a study from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) found over 297,000 restrictions on industrial-sector operations stemming from federal regulations alone.

Biometric security helps simplify many of the compliance issues stemming from these regulations by providing immediate data relating to enforcement.  This can create significant time savings, not to mention better records if ever they were needed.

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Biometric designs work with Industry 4.0 standards

Rapid authentication is especially important in manufacturing plants that have adopted Industry 4.0 standards. The need for fast and accurate data from embedded sensors and systems is the basis of the smart factory. As the IIoT expands, it’s only logical to include workers’ movements as part of that dataset as they interact with processes and machinery. 

Certain biometric security systems allow users to integrate into the manufacturing execution system (MES) using wearable technology that will log workers in and out of machinery as they move into and out of range.  The resulting data can be critical to fully understanding the manufacturing process as it relates to proper staffing levels and productivity.  Moreover, it helps identify those workers who are working at or above standards while also giving managers a chance to pinpoint those who may benefit from retraining.  

Some additional benefits to biometric security that might also be considered include maintaining control of locations by denying entry to restricted areas to those who have not been previously cleared and properly staffing of individual machinery by locking out those who have not completed necessary training modules. While these secondary benefits help improve the overall security of the plant, cybersecurity is still the driving force making biometric options more mainstream within manufacturing locations.