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How Industry 4.0 Transforms Data Regulation & Protection

By Christopher Heiden, MSA, MSIS, Walsh College, Marrci Conner, Henry Ford College and Robert James, Henry Ford College

Industry 4.0 and the advent of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)—the use of smart sensors and actuators to enhance manufacturing and industrial processes—has created massive amounts of data never before envisioned; providing manufactures with real-time analytics that change the way companies operate around the globe.

Data analysis allows manufactures to predict machine failure and downtime, optimize their supply chain, detect product deficiencies, boost quality and efficiency, lower costs and gain valuable insights into customer behavior. However, these Big Data benefits also pose massive challenges for manufacturers as they face critical issues surrounding security, privacy and regulations.

There is no single principal data regulation or protection legislation in the United States (U.S.). Data regulation and protection in the manufacturing sector is controlled at the state and international levels, for product and technical compliance, safety, health and environmental protection. Data management in the manufacturing industry is further complicated by data sharing practices (between suppliers, manufacturers and customers), privacy laws, liability and intellectual property (IP) protection. These complex issues are difficult to resolve and are associated with measures that are also hard to enforce. Thus, there’s a strong need for versatile and well-integrated controls for platform-wide data regulation, governance and policy enforcement within the manufacturing sector (Ismail A. T., 2019).

Data protection in manufacturing is necessary to protect and safeguard the data from external players. Keeping data of immense value safe while sharing it widely, often across international borders, is no easy task (Ismail N. , 2018). Data protection is complicated further by a set of processes that must meet organizational and compliance issues, for example the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set in place by the European Union in 2018, covering the personal data of any EU resident. Any company that has employees, suppliers or customers in Europe must comply with the regulation.

Industry 4.0 transforms data regulation and protection in the manufacturing sector, and smart technologies will impact people, processes and technology now and in the future. The following are steps manufacturers can take to ensure they are leveraging their data in a safe and compliant manner.

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