Friday, January 11, 2019

Defense Contractors: Is Your Information Protected?

By: Elliot Forsyth

Every 39 seconds, a cyber-attack occurs somewhere in the world. Yet, most small manufacturers still believe they are safe from cyber threats, assuming hackers only target large, multi-billion dollar companies. Unfortunately, that cannot be further from the truth.

Consider, for example, the recent Sea Dragon breach. In early 2018, hackers within the Chinese government targeted the computers of a Navy contractor to steal 614 gigabytes of sensitive government information related to undersea warfare, which included information about Sea Dragon, a highly confidential project, and other sensitive material.

Rather than attacking the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, a military organization responsible for developing Sea Dragon, hackers instead chose to target the contractor, further demonstrating that companies of all size are at risk when it comes to cyber threats. The information stolen was housed on an unclassified network, despite its sensitive nature, leaving it highly vulnerable to theft or attack. Had the contractor originally recognized the risks involved with holding such information – regardless of their company’s size – and taken the proper precautions to ensure the information was protected, this entire breach potentially could have been avoided.

This was not the first major breach of sensitive information to occur within the military realm, and it won’t be the last. Hacks are only becoming increasingly more prevalent, especially among smaller contractors throughout the supply chain. Because of this, a growing number of sectors within the military are moving toward making cybersecurity a top factor in awarding future contracts.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is leading the way when it comes to establishing cybersecurity regulations among suppliers, with thousands of contractors across the nation now compliant with the NIST 800-171 standard. Essentially, this standard provides suppliers with guidelines for closing gaps in their existing information security systems while creating prevention and reaction plans for future cyber-attacks.

Many defense contractors have started their journey towards cyber safety, or are already compliant with the NIST standard. Others have yet to get started, getting held back by questions such as, Where do I start? What kind of information needs to be protected? Where can I find information security experts to help me keep my information protected? Why does this matter to my business?

All of these questions and more will be answered at the upcoming Cybersecurity: Defense Sector Summit held in Troy, Mich., from March 5-6. Hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), this event brings together members of industry, government, academia and security research to discuss the latest and most pressing challenges related to cybersecurity in the military. To help Michigan contractors better understand the risks and responsibilities associated with maintaining safe cyber practices, speakers will discuss methods for how to best safeguard information, with live demonstrations related to cybersecurity.

Defense contractors who want to stay competitive and protected in the coming years won’t want to miss this informative event. To learn more about this summit, or to reserve your seat, click here.

For further assistance with safeguarding your company’s sensitive information from attack, contact The Center’s cyber experts at or call 888.414.6682.

Elliot Forsyth
Vice President of Business Operations

Elliot is Vice President of Business Operations at The Center, where he is responsible for leading practice areas that include cybersecurity, technology acceleration, marketing, market research and business development. Over the past two years, Elliot has led The Center's effort to develop a state-of-the-art cybersecurity service for companies in the defense, aerospace and automotive industries, supporting Michigan companies in safeguarding their businesses and maintaining regulatory compliance.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Friday, January 4, 2019

Redefining Manufacturing in 2019

With the start of a new year, businesses are inspired to reflect on the progress and changes they’ve made in the past year. If they were to look back five or 10 years, most manufacturers would realize their companies have changed so tremendously, that they are unrecognizable compared to how they once were. These transformations in processes, products, staffing and innovations have altered how their businesses appear and operate. This begs the question, what will manufacturing look like in 2019?

New technologies and trends are changing the manufacturing industry. With so many advancements happening at once, it can be difficult for manufacturers to know where the industry is headed, or where to focus their energy in order to stay prosperous and competitive in the coming year. To learn how to navigate this ever-changing market, let’s break down some of the biggest issues, challenges and concerns of manufacturers today and discover how to best mitigate them to ensure success in 2019.

Tackling a Talent Shortage
On the top of all manufacturers’ minds is a shortage of talent. A recent poll conducted by Tooling U-SME found 99% of manufacturers reported that their top workforce challenge was finding skilled new hires. Manufacturers have been dealing with a massive talent shortage for years due to the looming retirement of the baby boomer generation and a general disinterest in manufacturing careers amongst the younger population. However, recent efforts such as National Manufacturing Day, apprenticeships and education reform have worked to improve perceptions of the industry and establish manufacturing as a viable career path for incoming workers. These efforts are proving effective, with more than 66% of those polled saying they would be somewhat or very likely to encourage someone to pursue a career in manufacturing.

Many manufacturers have proactively tackled this challenge by engaging incoming workers with apprenticeships, which equip students with the skills and education needed to excel in manufacturing while securing them as future workers in the facility. Apprenticeships are a win-win situation that can set manufacturers up for success in 2019.

Ensuring Employee Retention & Engagement
As important as it is to find great talent, it is even more important to retain it. As unemployment has reached a 50-year low, companies must offer increasingly competitive benefits to retain workers. This is especially true for manufacturers. In fact, 43% of manufacturers report an average of 20% or higher annual turnover, according to the report by Tooling U-SME.

What can a manufacturer do to preserve the talent they have? There are a few ways to combat this issue, with leadership being a large determining factor for employee engagement. Ask yourself, do you engage with other workers on a personal level? Do you demonstrate appreciation to workers beyond paychecks? Do you include workers in upcoming changes to the facility or operations? Learning how to effectively navigate these situations significantly impacts employee engagement and determines if you will have a loyal, driven team or disinterested staff with one foot out the door.

Offering training and education is another way to inspire loyalty and engagement in workers, also while filling shortages in talent at your facility. By investing in the right training, existing workers can seamlessly move into the positions you need to fill most, eliminating gaps in your facility and increasing engagement in newly trained workers. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, 94% of workers say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

Leveraging the Power of Technology
With Industry 4.0 becoming more engrained in modern manufacturing facilities, an increasing number of manufacturers are committing to technology. While some manufacturers are already well-positioned to succeed in this new technology-focused landscape, with employees on board and initiatives underway, others have yet to get started.

Concerns about technology implementations being too expensive, too time consuming or unnecessary have largely held small manufacturers back from taking the initial steps towards smart manufacturing. However, adopting technology does not need to be dreaded or difficult. By taking the right approach to technology and investing in the right training, manufacturers can identify innovations that are relevant and affordable to get the most out of all investments.

To start, manufacturers should use their business needs and goals to identify areas that could be improved, which will then highlight areas that could best benefit from technological innovations. Once these areas have been identified, appropriate technologies can be applied. With more technology options available than ever before, affordable solutions can be easily provided to those who want to improve operations on a budget. Instead of avoiding technology and the benefits it can provide altogether, manufacturers should learn to embrace it in a way that makes sense for their business to ensure they can stay ahead of the competition in the coming year and beyond.

Looking back, manufacturing has changed in many ways since the beginning of 2018. The same can be expected for 2019, with new and ongoing transformations in the workforce, technology and market forcing manufacturers to advance or be left behind. The question remains: what will your manufacturing look like in 2019?

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at