As manufacturing goes digital, security and thus authentication take center stage. Productivity is still the desired happy ending. While authentication can be the hero, in many cases, it is the villain. Why? Because the models many companies use are broken or outdated.
Starting with the basics, what is authentication? Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “the process or action of proving or showing something to be true, genuine, or valid”. Simply put, authentication is the act of proving the identity of something or someone. An example: The username you type into your computer is your identification. When you type your password and hit “login”, that act is authenticating your identity. If all goes right, you’ve authenticated yourself, and you’re now logged into your computer or terminal.
Security is why companies mandate the use of locking computers with a username and password. By restricting access to only those they trust, companies can better protect their proprietary information and overall network security.
However, in many instances, a user typed password is simply not a strong enough method of authentication. Enter multi-factor authentication (MFA). As the name suggests, this method requires the person authenticating to demonstrate two (or more) things that prove who they are. These things fall into the following buckets:
- Something you are: Think biometrics - Fingerprint, retinal scan, heartbeat, etc.
- Something you have: A token you possess, something like a key card or badge
- Something you know: A password or passphrase
This article by Lea Toms at GlobalSign does a great job of outlining what MFA is, and why it’s such a great improvement over the standard username/password combination. An earlier Nymi blog post has also done an extensive job pulling together statistics on MFA and the issues with usernames and passwords. So, we’ll focus on how authentication can benefit, or hurt, productivity.
Authentication and Productivity
Authentication can either help or hinder on two sides to the productivity coin. The first is the impact on IT teams and the company bottom line when users forget passwords and get locked out of the computer or other systems. The second is the actual time it takes users to swipe in and type in credentials.
The IT Burden
The average cost for an IT team to reset a password when an employee forgets can be as high as $70 according to Forrester Research. Since 20%-50% of all calls to the help desk are for password resets, according to Gartner Group, this can add up quickly. Source: Sparkhound.
Unpacking the $70 estimate a little: this includes the cumulative time a user spends trying multiple passwords, plus the time the IT team takes to reset it once they get the call. It’s a sobering number, especially if you run an enterprise scale company. For a company with 3,500 employees, handling password resets and login issues equates to 45 work days a year for the IT team. Source: Kelly Glynn, Clearlogin.
In short, authentication relying on username and password only is a villain for IT productivity.
Manufacturing Line Efficiency
The other side of this coin can be even greater. Let’s look at pharmaceutical manufacturing, which not only produces complex products but is under strict regulatory supervision. As on a normal manufacturing line, there are multiple shifts of individuals conducting tasks from combining ingredients to measuring batches right through signing off on final products. Remember, regulations require a record of every step. While most companies have moved beyond pen and paper, to usernames and passwords, authentication is still a problem.
Setting aside for a moment concerns – of weak security, limited user nonrepudiation etc. – this method creates a major efficiency issue. On some lines, users have to type their username/password combo upwards of 300 times in a single shift. Each login attempt takes time, hurting efficiency. The extra time each user spends if a login sequence is incorrect, or even frozen by IT, further damages productivity.
Multiply this across an entire manufacturing facility and an entire year and it becomes clear that this form of authentication is again a villain, damaging efficiency and productivity.
From Villain to Hero
Improving authentication efficiency for both IT and users can turn the villain into a hero.
In fact, companies are today taking manufacturing lines’ performance well beyond the previous “optimized” state. Here’s how.
A user wearing the Nymi Band simply taps it to an NFC (near-field communication) reader. Then the system uses Bluetooth to determine if the user is within proximity, and thus unlocks the terminal. After a single authentication each shift, the users don’t have to remember or do anything. Imagine how that boosts productivity!
Layer back on the dramatically increased security posture that the Nymi solution provides, the strengthened system of user nonrepudiation, and it becomes clear that as we move towards Industry 4.0, authentication can truly be a hero for productivity.