What’s the story? How our manufacturing clients use technology – Part 1

I’ve been heading out “into the field” lately to talk to some of our manufacturing clients about what they feel are their most important uses of technology.

As a company that deals in technology every day, we have very strong views about what is important in technology: stability, security, productivity, for example. I thought it was important to hear directly from our clients about what is most important to them.

A few weeks ago, I went to visit our clients at Arcor Laser in Suffield, CT. As innovators in precision laser processing, I knew that technology would be of key importance to their business. I expected to hear about the amazing advances their technology has allowed them to make and I was not disappointed.

I learned about the incredible impact their ERP system has had on all aspects of their company.  ERP, or Enterprise resource planning, is business management software that allows an organization to use a system of integrated applications to manage the business. ERP software integrates all facets of an operation, and in Arcor’s case, they use it for inventory management, job tracking, estimating and costing, inspection, shipping and receiving, sales, and many front office tasks as well. It has become the backbone of their business, giving them access to business information that enables better workflow and productivity.

I also learned about how their new design software has improved their manufacturing processes to be better and faster. But, what I wasn’t expecting was their laser-like focus on the over-arching importance of network security in their every day practices.

Support Services Manager, Jay Tolo, could hardly contain the enthusiasm he had for the importance of earlier security work we had completed and the NIST 800-171 compliance work we had done for them to be prepared for the December 2017 compliance deadline. This compliance not only enables them to continue earning government contracts but is a sign to all their customers of the importance they place on the security of their systems. Jay explained that this was a huge jump from the time he first started at Arcor. Years ago, Arcor was just in the infancy of using technology securely. But, as we all know, the face of cybersecurity has changed rapidly over the past 5 years.

Seeing the writing on the walls, Arcor, guided by their virtual Chief Information Officer at IT Direct, began implementing the changes necessary to ensure their systems were safe from ransomware, physically secure, and protected from viruses and malware. We updated their email security platform, which, to date, has kept them ransomware free (knock on wood!). We implemented virus protection on all machines, including on the shop floor. Finally, we added 3rd party patching to ensure their systems are as up to date and secure as possible.

In 2017, this forward-thinking company made the leap to NIST compliance, with a full understanding of not only the governmental requirements, but also the risks that security breaches can have on their downtime, their reputation, and their business as a whole. IT Direct completed a NIST gap assessment that identified their current security and the requirements that needed to be filled to be compliant. This assessment enabled Arcor and IT Direct to implement all the access control, monitoring, auditing, recovery mechanisms and documentation needed to gain compliance. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t cheap, but Jay and the team at Arcor understood the true value of these upgrades go far beyond the investment.

By the end of our discussion, I could understand why Jay was so excited about the use of technology to improve their security – it is the underpinning of their entire business. They got ahead of it, and are staying ahead of it, one step at a time.