Manufacturing Security: The Top 5 Physical Security Issues to Know

January 18, 2024 · READ

If you’re one to scroll headlines, you might feel bombarded by daily news about organizations grappling with the impact of manufacturing security lapses and unwanted incidents. For those manufacturers, these stories highlight a hard truth: a single weak point can create chaos across the board. As for anyone managing factory floors and the data that makes it possible, strong manufacturing security has become as essential as any other part of plant operations.

Physical security in manufacturing isn’t just a matter of locking doors; it’s about protecting a complex ecosystem with valuable data, assets, locations, personnel, and often clients or customers. As digital technology becomes more integral to manufacturing processes, the importance of stepping up our game in physical security becomes undeniable. Let’s explore the top five physical security concerns for manufacturers and why staying one step ahead is more important than ever.

Top 5 manufacturing security risks

When it comes to securing modern manufacturing facilities, you need to prepare for both traditional risks and emerging challenges. As the stories below will highlight, if you think, “Nah, this won’t happen to us,” then you definitely need a plan for it. This calls for a mix of proven security measures and innovative, proactive, and agile approaches. Manufacturers can safeguard their operations against a variety of potential incidents and threats. Staying ahead of your outlined physical security risks requires testing and refining your strategies.

Read on for the five most impactful (not in a good way!) physical security risks in manufacturing:

1. Workforce dynamics

The manufacturing industry faces significant challenges in employee recruitment and retention, leading to a workforce characterized by high turnover and heavy reliance on external staffing. This often results in a disconnect between the manufacturing site employees and corporate HR teams.

The use of third-party recruitment firms further complicates this relationship, as it can lead to a lack of direct accountability and reduced loyalty among workers. Inadequate background checks make it easier for high-risk individuals to gain employment. These dynamics not only increase the risk of internal security breaches and incidents, including theft and sabotage, but also create potential scenarios for workplace violence. Effective communication and closer collaboration between HR and security functions are critical in mitigating these risks, ensuring a more cohesive approach to personnel management and security in manufacturing environments.

2. Theft and sabotage

Image of white tesla outside of dealership as supplementary image for manufacturing security

Remember when Elon Musk accused an employee for sabotaging the Tesla production line? From stealing raw materials to intentionally damaging machinery, insider threats that lead to profit loss or business disruption are all too common along the supply chain.

Acts of theft or sabotage not only cause financial loss but can also halt production. But it’s not always a one-man show. Collusion among plant workers and distribution networks is also a growing concern — cargo theft incidents rose 59% YoY in Canada and the US in 2023.

So, what’s the game plan? You’ve got to tackle it from both sides – inside and out. Tightening up your plant’s manufacturing security is a start, but you also need total visibility across the landscape and data at your fingertips. A comprehensive corporate security software solution tailored for manufacturing plants and facilities can help you mitigate and get ahead of these types of external and internal threats.

3. Challenges in access control

Effective access control in manufacturing plants isn’t just about managing who comes in and out. It’s vital, especially when you’ve got a revolving door of employees. High turnover makes tracking and managing access permissions challenging. And it’s not just about the big stuff; sometimes, the small habits can cause the biggest headaches. Like leaving doors open – it seems harmless but can open the floodgates to all sorts of security nightmares.

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Take a 2023 Pokémon card heist, for example. An employee at a card printing manufacturer snagged thousands of rare cards, only getting caught when he tried to sell them to Trading Card World (TCW) in Dallas, which led to suspicions about their origins. Why did he do it? Because he could get to them. It’s a classic case of someone taking advantage of weak access control. This kind of thing hits hard — not just in lost goods, but makes your facility look bad. It’s a wake-up call to tighten access, ensuring only the right people can access your valuable stuff.

4. Intellectual property theft and counterfeiting

Intellectual property (IP) theft — the illicit use, copying, or sharing of another individual’s creations, inventions, or ideas — poses a significant threat to manufacturers. Manufacturing plants often house valuable proprietary information — like the Tesla manufacturing operating system code, which the aforementioned employee allegedly then changed, according to Musk. (The employee also reportedly shared “highly sensitive” company data with outside parties.)

Inadequate protection of your IP due to “leaky” communication and IP security protocols, as well as poor communication between site staff and corporate legal teams, can lead to significant losses. According to the Associated Press, intellectual property theft costs the U.S. economy up to $600 billion annually. Meanwhile, “Counterfeit products cost the global economy over $500 billion a year,” says a US Chamber of Commerce report. Protecting these assets demands vigilant security measures and the tools and training to support them.

5. The human element: Workplace violence

Workplace violence remains a critical concern in the manufacturing sector. Globally, 23% of all employees, or about 743 million people, have faced violence or harassment at work, as reported in an article in Tech Report. In the high-pressure environment of manufacturing plants, the potential for conflict that could escalate into violence is a real and present danger.

Case in point: A tragic plant shutdown incident at an automotive engine factory in Ohio in 2023. What started as a personal feud between two employees ended in a fatal shooting. Their dispute wasn’t about work issues – it was personal. But it happened on the factory floor and shook everyone up, ending in a production halt. It’s a clear example of how quickly things can spiral out of control when conflicts erupt in the workplace.

So, what do we do about it? First off, we need more than just locks and alarms. We need comprehensive threat assessments and methodologies that provide threat frameworks for resource-strapped manufacturing security teams. We need to be able to conduct robust persons of interest investigations before the potential for workplace violence causes harm. It’s also about training everyone to spot the warning signs and de-escalate tense situations. And, let’s not forget support for mental health — it’s a big piece of the puzzle. A safe workplace is one where employees don’t just feel physically secure but also supported and heard.

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Manage your manufacturing plant’s security with Resolver

In manufacturing, dealing with internal and external security threats presents a dynamic challenge for physical security teams. More than just identifying the risks is required; you need the right tools to address them. That’s where Resolver comes into play, making a significant impact.

Resolver’s corporate security software flexibly adapts to manufacturing security use cases. Our no-code solution proactively deals with security incidents as they happen, thanks to user-friendly incident reporting capabilities, centralized incident data, and simple reporting and visualization tools that help you connect the dots between actual incidents and potential threats. We empower security teams with the tools for better corporate security outcomes: keeping your facilities, people, and products safe and secure.

Resolver’s approach isn’t just about technology — we’re big on breaking down barriers between departments. When security, HR, facilities, EH&S, and legal teams work together, your security strategy becomes bulletproof. And we don’t just “set and forget.” Our software keeps up with the latest trends and best practices in security, ensuring your team is always ready to act, investigate, and evaluate.

Ready to see how Resolver’s solutions can ramp up your manufacturing security? Schedule a custom demo to see how Resolver can address your security needs. Don’t wait around for a security scare to take action. We can help you protect what matters.

This content was originally published on June 12, 2018.

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