Data security’s integral role in the digital age

Many regulations require that companies working with national security information implement aggressive levels of cybersecurity.

For machine shops, compliance with government standards is an evolving challenge. Defense and aerospace manufacturers must adhere to strict standards and documentation procedures, including the DoD’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC). Failure to comply with evolving requirements in a timely manner results in severe consequences, chief among them lost revenue and barriers to growth, as DoD suppliers are unable to work with shops that do not comply. This challenge to evolve must be met head-on and with urgency, to anticipate and plan for compliance requirements as manufacturers in the defense and aerospace industries position for success now and in the future.

Many regulations require that companies working with national security information implement aggressive levels of cybersecurity standards based on the type and sensitivity of information. Within the last year, President Biden signed the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which produced a $773 billion funding package. While this represents a lucrative potential future for job shops it comes with a caveat: They must be able to meet the technological standards that allow them to comply with ever-changing regulations.

For job shops with smaller teams or limited resources, compliance is no small feat. Nevertheless, compliance is not optional. To meet these standards with limited workforce capacity, job shops must look to leverage technology that can automate processes, monitor and protect against cyberattacks, and update processes in real time. With a pen-and-paper or manual approach, manufacturers are committing significant time and resources that ultimately impact the bottom line, in a time where budgets are tight as they are being asked to do increasingly more with less. As certification standards continue to evolve, working with outdated tools will only hinder job shops’ progress.

Evolving landscape requires agile solutions

Meeting new CMMC standards is not a question of ‘if’ but rather a question of ‘how’ and ‘how quickly.’ The DoD is currently at the stage of suggesting the creation of a thorough and adaptable evaluation system to guarantee that defense contractors and subcontractors, under the CMMC program, have integrated the necessary security measures. This would extend the coverage of current security standards and introduce new security requirements in specific priority programs. In order to remain compliant and continue supplying the DoD, job shops must enhance their data security ahead of these rollouts.

Additionally, for maximum efficiency, manufacturers should focus on leveraging solutions that will integrate with their contractual requirements and CMMC implementation strategy. Cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions can help in a variety of ways, including centralized data management, compliance features, as well as enabling scalability and the ability to manage risk.

Visibility is essential in any security measure, and a centralized data repository provides crucial clarity. Disparate systems cause confusion and a lack of control. Through an ERP solution, sensitive data can be stored and managed in a secure platform, in which CMMC requirements regarding data security and access control can be easily adhered to. For Midway Swiss Turn, the progression to an ERP came following a PC and QuickBooks, and previously, typewriters. Their lack of data organization called for a solution that would allow them to be able to collect all the data and organize it in the most successful way. The evolution to automated collection of accounting data, machine availability and material stock helped revenue and employee numbers increase exponentially. The ability to spur growth with safe and secure data will be integral as CMMC standards finalize and evolve.

For job shops operating with smaller teams and tighter margins, achieving compliant data management is too significant an individual lift. Manual in-house efforts of creating encryption protocols, configuring access controls, maintaining audit logs and monitoring data protection take immense time and resources. In short, that’s a cost that many job shops can’t bear. Instead, cloud-based ERP solutions exhibit features like encryption, access controls and audit trails pre-designed to meet CMMC standards, ensuring compliance while looking out for the bottom line.

As job shops look to leverage opportunities in defense and aerospace investment, CMMC readiness also enables growth and scale. Cloud-based ERP systems bring with them the ability to adapt to changing compliance needs and include risk management features to identify and address cybersecurity vulnerabilities, allowing manufacturers to maintain compliance as standards evolve. CMMC-ready ERP solutions provide customers with a framework to meet timely compliance standards, maintain cybersecurity best practices, and build a competitive advantage in the market with the expanded opportunity to work with government contractors. This ultimately saves manufacturers time and money, enabling them to grow their businesses and avoid costly fines and opportunity exclusions. This forward-looking perspective is invaluable to data security as the CMMC deadlines approach.

Investing in the present and future

Manufacturers must adopt adaptable, industry-evolving solutions to remain compliant and position themselves for future success, especially as the new CMMC standards are set to be in place Q1 of 2025. Failing to leverage the technology required will ultimately be of a higher cost than the technological investment. Secure, agile solutions continue to provide the visibility and compliance that the government requires and serve as a strategic step to set manufacturers up for future success.

Matt Heerey, President of Manufacturing, ECI Software Solutions

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