Securing your Intellectual Property
Production procedures and formula values property
How secure is the intellectual property of your products?
Many degrees of automation exist in manufacturing plants, but they all have a common requirement– specifying the activities and the order in which they need to occur as well as the key setpoints such as materials, amounts, tolerances, temperatures, durations, etc.
This information may reside on sheets of paper the operators must follow, they may be programmed into a controller program or may reside in an MES system computer. The reality is that many people have access to this information, they may be internal employees or external contractors that work on your systems and legitimately have access to this valuable intellectual property that often contains your competitive advantage. This information may be taken away by external hackers or may leave your premises via people working on your systems, in the worst-case scenario it may leave via a disgruntled employee that had access to this information.
This Intellectual Property (IP) information can be secured so NO one, even internal personnel, can remove it from the premises. Using existent off-the-shelf product functionality you can ensure that no component of your IP can be used outside your plant’s Network directory. The plant’s capabilities as well as the procedures to make the products are not able to be reviewed, opened, exported nor executed on similar systems that do not belong to the same network directory. This functionality is little known, but it exists on a readily available, well-known automation vendor’s platform.
A security Token Identifier is assigned by the network directory, this security Token Identifier can then be assigned to the individual components responsible for capturing the plant’s capabilities as well as the procedures required to manufacture your products. These components can then only be accessible and be useful if they are used within the same network directory if they are attempted to be used outside the directory the files will render useless.
Another aspect that may help secure how the products are manufactured is to ensure the recipes are not altered without the proper vetting from the stakeholders. Off-the-shelf functionality also provides the ability to lock the recipes via versioning so that these could never be altered unless it is performed by an authorized individual or group of approvers, they may be checked out, edited and saved with another version. At the same time, a release to production approval process can be enforced. This will require the electronic authorization of the different stakeholders in order to be able to release a recipe to production.
The procedures that need to be followed to produce your products can be secured from being useful outside your premises, can be tracked so only a non-modifiable version can be executed and may require approval by multiple stakeholders. All these functionalities are available in off-the-shelf products that you may already be using.
Securing the intellectual property that contains your competitive advantage may not be as difficult as you think. As always, we’re here to help if you need us.