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Doughnut maker sprinkles traceability over operations

Steve Gidman  President Fortress Technology
By Steve Gidman President, Fortress Technology

FIELD INTELLIGENCE: Smart Processes, Solutions & Strategies

Smart technology can turn a food and beverage producer into a predictor rather than a reactor. When it comes to safety, today’s connected metal detectors allow immediate and remote access while enabling suppliers to review and compare operational data. This helps to spot trends and patterns, such as when and where most rejects are occurring, leading to increased productivity and improved operational efficiency.

Yet, while the digital transformation began on the factory floor, not all of today’s manufacturers are “smart.” The risk of cyber breaches often deters food producers—particularly small and medium enterprises—from taking the digital plunge.

Many, like Peddler Doughnuts, want straightforward metal detectors without the bells and whistles. Fortunately, there are steps that companies can take to protect connected devices from hackers and other unwanted interference.

To ensure smart equipment is not vulnerable to an attack from either external or internal threats, regular consultation with an IT specialist is essential.

The most important line of defense is to keep networks separate. This could involve setting up a corporate network, for areas like finance and HR functions, and an industrial network, which governs the operational side of the business.

Since the advent of the Internet of Things, there has been a rise in outside companies requiring access to a firm’s internal networks. If a metal detector has a fault, for example, the supplier may request remote control of the machine to fix it and reduce downtime. For protection from unwanted threats either to the corporate or industrial network, it is advisable that food producers apply the principle of least privilege. This means never giving a user more access than they need to perform their task.

Creating a third network ensures a secure path between an organization’s internal and external networks. By only opening the particular ports needed to communicate on one network at a time, it ring-fences the rest of an organization’s data and operational controls.

Separating networks and limiting third-party access should cut the threat of an outside body infiltrating a digital framework by about 90 percent.

But while the risk from ransomware, phishers and hackers should not be underestimated, the greatest risk to small and mid-size enterprises regarding their connected equipment is actually more likely to come internally.

To mitigate this, focus on traceability. Some of the latest metal detectors, including those recently installed by Doughnut Peddler, come with unique, user-specific login details. Four units are installed on lines in the company’s Arizona, North Carolina and Florida bakeries. Inspecting 160 doughnuts per minute, the Doughnut Peddler could not entertain the possibility of false rejects disrupting production. Fortunately, the metal detectors achieve reliable performance thanks to a combination of powerful digital signal processing technology. If an operator wants to make a change to the operational status or machine settings, he must first input his username and password.

Being able to recall who requested changes, and exactly when, provides traceability.

Blockchain is another tool with great potential. Resistant to modification, a blockchain is a ledger of encrypted data containing timestamps and transactional data. New entries are added as they occur, forming a chain. Data is recorded and stored securely, providing complete supply chain transparency.

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