Jay Stauffer heads up the IT department across LPW Group and its subsidiaries. From 1999 to 2018, he worked at Brock Group, first as a Senior Network Engineer and later as the Director of Information Technology. LPW Group is the leading manufacturer of valves, fittings, flanges and related flow control products.
“We work closely with public and private organisations to ensure they have the custom parts they need when they need them,” said Stauffer. “As far as industries go, our customers run the gamut from petrochemical to oil and gas to defence.”
Here, Stauffer discusses cybersecurity issues in the manufacturing sector, labour shortages and automation’s role in security.
Cybersecurity challenges facing manufacturers
LPW Group faces the same struggles as any other manufacturing company, such as phishing emails.
“These are probably the most common threat and the hardest to block,” Stauffer says. “Human error also plays into this. For example, many users may use shared logins for machines and control systems on the warehouse floor. For this reason, it’s not uncommon to see passwords written in shared public spaces on whiteboards or pinned to the machines themselves, which is a security nightmare.”
However, prior to Stauffer coming onboard at LPW Group, there were several recent acquisitions. This has made it challenging to consolidate technology, processes and systems into one overarching IT department with a unified cybersecurity strategy.
“Since each organisation had its own third-party IT, we inherited disjointed systems when it came to security. Anyone who knows cybersecurity will know that disorganisation is a cybercriminal’s best friend, making this a challenge we needed to address ASAP.”
For this reason, LPW Group has operated with all hands on deck to consolidate the IT infrastructure and support.
“This past year, we’ve focused on standardising processes and organising under one common domain, network platform, phone system, productivity software, cybersecurity framework and more. A lot of little things add up to create a very intricate network to try to keep secure. However, this consolidation will not only help my team stay ahead of cybersecurity trends and threats, it will also boost our productivity and set a foundation for scaling the company.”
Dealing with labour shortages and the role of automation in manufacturing
Right now, Stauffer’s team is fairly small, with five internal staff members and two external organisations. But he is looking to expand the team in the new year as the company continues to grow.
“It also helps that we can lean on IT management partners like ManageEngine to optimise my small-but-mighty team,” he said. “ManageEngine automates some of the more administrative tasks so my team can continue to facilitate growth at LPW Group. We are pulled in many different directions as the role of IT continues to evolve. It’s really nice to have a trusted partnership with ManageEngine, which offers us a suite of solutions that can help automate my team’s day-to-day. For example, ManageEngine can monitor our digital environment and alert us when there are problems. This frees us up to continue with larger projects like consolidating our IT infrastructure.”
Stauffer sees automation playing a bigger role in the security landscape across manufacturing.
“Because we work with the US Department of Defense, we must not only stay on top of compliance, but go above and beyond. This means managing endpoints can be a very time-consuming task. Again, automation helps by allowing us to give time to other strategic initiatives.
“Automation has helped secure the manufacturing floor as well. It has reduced manual labour required for compliance reporting, which has helped us manage through the current labour squeeze in manufacturing. It has also given us the ability to automate the incident request and ticket creation process in the event of a phishing email or similar threat.”
Stauffer’s advice for other manufacturing companies looking to strengthen their cybersecurity strategy is to make sure that they are consolidating across their organisation.
“Even though cyberthreats are continuously evolving and criminals are always coming up with new ways to target manufacturing organisations, security is much easier to manage when you’re organised. I would also advise others to find a trusted partner in cybersecurity to help save you time and money in the long run.”
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