3 Things Manufacturers Must Have on Their Radar in 2021

… and what MxD is doing to help solve these digital manufacturing challenges.

1. Cybersecurity throughout the Supply Chain

“Do not fill plastic bags with gasoline.” That’s what the Consumer Product Safety Commission told anyone who would listen in the aftermath of a debilitating cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies the East Coast with half of its fuel.

We now know the hackers got in using a shared VPN account that had no additional security measures. A relatively simple-to-integrate multifactor authentication system could have prevented the outage. This is why MxD talks about the easier steps that small and medium-sized manufacturers can take to better protect their businesses. SMMs are equally if not more vulnerable than big corporations.

This year at MxD, we will review more than 45 cybersecurity tools currently available to SMMs. We won’t score them like Rotten Tomatoes, but we will outline the advantages and drawbacks of the various products and make that advice accessible online to all of our partners.

Another MxD cybersecurity project focuses on the U.S. military’s supply chain. The Department of Defense is implementing sweeping new cybersecurity requirements for any company it does business with, to eliminate vulnerabilities.

The DoD’s DFARS and CMMC rules can be a veritable jungle of acronyms. To help manufacturers navigate these requirements, MxD and the University of Illinois’ Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute built the Cyber Secure Dashboard, a cloud-based tool to help DoD subcontractors meet requirements. This year, with additional support from the Department of Homeland Security, we’re building version 2.0 of that dashboard. 

2. Wireless Networks Need an Upgrade  

Many manufacturers are looking to adopt emerging wireless technologies such as 5G cellular, Wi-Fi 6 and ultra-wideband. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? Which option is the most secure? What is the anticipated return on investment?

At MxD, we’re working with AT&T to build out a 5G testbed on our own factory floor in Chicago, so manufacturers can come and learn for themselves.  

3. Yes, the American Supply Chain Is a Mess.

Are you waiting for an item on back-order? Us too. 

In 2019, MxD developed a prototype for a Supply Chain Risk Alert system that predicted shipping delays from weather, traffic, and road construction.

This year, we’re building on that foundation to create an app that alerts manufacturers when a far-away event — a tsunami, a forest fire, or a mysterious virus — could affect their ability to get products to customers on time.

When you have dozens or hundreds of suppliers, and they each have dozens or hundreds of suppliers of their own, it can be hard to predict trouble and act quickly enough to prevent disruption. An early warning is exactly what manufacturers need in order to pivot and keep operating. 

This year we will be piloting the Supply Chain Risk Alert with five companies, including Dow

To learn more about the projects, advancements, and funding opportunities that MxD has planned for 2021-2023, download our Strategic Investment Plan.