Do You Have an Ethical Code of Conduct for Your Manufacturing Data?

In major factories with a robust Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it’s not uncommon to generate hundreds of gigabytes of data each day. From sensor modules, to process relays, to aggregated machine data, and all the digital information created by employees, there’s vast amounts of data transacting to monitor. And although it all takes place within your factory and your business cloud, it’s still important to be mindful of ethical data handling.

The scope of factory data

Factory data isn’t just a series of ones and zeroes streaming from devices to software modules. Nearly every part of the factory is digitally connected in some way. And although the scope and sensitivity of data varies greatly, it all requires the same level of transparency of data handling. Some diverse examples include:

  • Employee user profiles, email addresses, and documents.
  • IIoT sensor data and device settings.
  • Tooling and machine data for programmable equipment.
  • Digital twin information and asset monitoring data.
  • Data relayed from augmented and virtual realities.

Manufacturing data extends across the factory floor, through the warehouse, to inventory, quality control, maintenance operations, and far beyond. Every byte of data generated must fall into a system backed by best practices, or it leaves manufacturers vulnerable.

Ethical data handling in manufacturing

When we think of ethical data handling, the base concept is responsibility. Do no wrong with the data you have and act with altruism. It might seem easy, since the data you’re handling is your own; but there’s an ethical level of consideration beyond simply doing no wrong. Ethical data handling also means safe data management and responsible human intervention.

Take a situation like the following. One of your engineers is tasked with recalibrating an HMI and needs to log into the core system. Unfortunately, he forgot his login. He asks the person working alongside him to enter their data, and he gets to work.

Seems fine, right? Wrong. This actually is an ethical breach — one person used another’s information to perform work. Every action past that point is compromised. What if the HMI malfunctions? The last person to work on it and the last login aren’t the same … so who’s at fault? Moreover, what if there’s a data breach down the line and the credentials compromised are same as the person who shared them for the HMI repair? Who’s held accountable? This example is just one of thousands in ethical data handling practice.

Principles of ethical data handling

For most manufacturers, ethical data handling isn’t a big jump from what they’re already doing. Rather, it’s tidying up the little things that may leave gaps in ethical operations. Look at your current data handling practices and ask if they conform to the five core tenants of ethical, responsible data handling:

  1. Private data should always remain private, with authorized access only.
  2. Shared information should always go through a valid chain of custody.
  3. Usage of data should always be transparent to those using it.
  4. The use of data should never displace or outweigh general business ethics.
  5. Data shouldn’t be manipulated or infringed to create a bias or predetermined conclusion.

Factory data differs greatly from customer data in terms of how it’s used. But what remains consistent across all data is the need for ethical handling. Apply the five principles above to your everyday data handling practices to ensure they’re carried out in an ethical, responsible way.

Data shared between manufacturers and their partners is subject to ethical handling standards as well. Make sure you’re partnering with companies who understand the importance of data integrity and privacy. You can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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