Manufacturing Connection March Newsletter

  • Manufacturing Connection March Newsletter

    Manufacturing Connection March Newsletter

    A Letter from the Director

    Manufacturing in a Cyber World

    Remember in your early manufacturing career when machine centers were operated with rows of relays and timers?  Tweaking the process flow required hard wiring changes.  Troubleshooting took the form of the voltmeter to check continuity through the relays and sensors.  The advent of programmable logic and process controllers provided incredible gains in the ability and ease to optimize the process flow.  Human Machine Interface panels and displays further advanced process and manufacturing technology.

    As these developments advanced, there was a strong drive to connect and operate the plant controls through computer network and business systems.  In order to integrate the manufacturing process with the business and enterprise resource planning systems, the cyber threat of this connected equipment has grown.

    The threat of cybersecurity has taken a front seat in the area of national defense.  The Department of Defense (DOD) has worked with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop cybersecurity standards for those businesses involved directly with DOD work and indirectly through the entire supply chain of a direct DOD business partner.  NIST has released the following draft report to seek comments by April 18, 2018 and bring awareness of these standards for policymakers, managers and participants (

    Older technology and equipment in a manufacturing facility can be an easy door opening for a cyberattack.  The robust protocol of the NIST DOD cybersecurity standards can be overwhelming for some manufacturers asking themselves, where do I start?  On Friday, March 9, our Industrial Advisory Board Chair Jim Dean from Shreveport and our Operations Director Dr. Ali Ahmad from Natchitoches joined me in a visit to the NIST labs and the NIST-MEP offices in Gaithersburg, Maryland.  We were in the Washington D. C. area that week participating with the National MEP advisory board meetings and meetings with the 8 Louisiana congressional officials and their staff to provide insight about the MEP and discuss the value of manufacturing in their districts.

    We toured the NIST lab involved with the manufacturing cyber initiative.   Typically, manufacturing process controls and computer operations don’t have a large amount of excess processing power to run add-on software and hardware functions intended to improve cybersecurity.  NIST is conducting research on the latent response time for a manufacturing control system with the added cybersecurity software and hardware to determine the implication of the slower computer processing time on the manufacturing process.  As a result of this work, NIST is working on a manufacturing cybersecurity protocol that will provide a streamlined, how-to approach for manufacturing cybersecurity.  This manufacturing cybersecurity protocol will aid manufacturers to get started in better securing their manufacturing process from a cyberattack with minimal computer processing impact.

    Brian Raymond, the Director of Innovation Policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, wrote the attached article titled “Cybersecurity in the Manufacturing Sector” (  This article provides additional insight on cybersecurity and offers a specific direction to consider for public policy next steps.

    If you are already well on your journey with your manufacturing facility on this cybersecurity front, congratulations on being an industry leader and recognizing the sizeable impact of cyber on your operations.   If you are just seeing this information for the first time and now are aware of its impact, this information should be helpful to get you started down this important path.  What we all need to recognize is that cybersecurity is essential, critical, and urgent for our manufacturing operations.  The time to cyber protect your operations is NOW!

    To learn more about the MEP of Louisiana, please visit  If you have a need and would like to visit with our MEP of Louisiana team, please connect here or call us at 337-482-6767.


    Mike Wolff, Director

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