The Reality of Regulated Manufacturing


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Nolan Johnson speaks with Ryan Bonner, CEO of DEFCERT, about government regulations for data and cybersecurity. A key component of moving to a digital factory will be to ensure security of the data required to operate a digital factory, and most importantly, customer design data.

Nolan Johnson: Ryan, what does DEFCERT do?

Ryan Bonner: We’re a compliance consulting organization working mostly in regulated manufacturing spaces.

Johnson: Can you explain that?

Bonner: A regulated manufacturing space is anywhere you have regulations attached to data. When manufacturers produce goods or perform a service or process in the larger supply chain, sometimes the data that’s associated with that work is regulated. In our case, it’s mostly federally regulated. We work with organizations when they receive seemingly innocuous data that they’ve produced in similar fashion for other clients over the years, but now there are extra strings attached in the form of regulations. Those show up in different ways, but we must identify newer or better strategies for manufacturers to not only use and consume that data but also to safeguard it.

Johnson: Great. Do you work only with electronics manufacturing or is your scope wider than that?

Bonner: It is a wider scope. There are certain industries that are hot right now. The semiconductor and printed circuit board industries are certainly important because of an extreme national interest in reshoring those capabilities. We also work with other manufacturers producing more traditional finished goods like vehicle systems and aerospace applications.

Johnson: Could you compare what you see from DEFCERT’s perspective with respect to the state of the PCB manufacturing industry for DEFCERT compared to semiconductor, and compared to more general manufacturing?

Bonner: Being an outsider, I see that the PCB manufacturing industry moved its expertise and capabilities offshore because of the incentives to do it. You could do strong design work here and leave the manufacturing to someone else. But in other parts of the manufacturing verticals in the United States, there was always something holding the fit, finish, or the overall finished good itself domestically. Maybe it was assembly or prototyping, testing and trialing, or something else. The amount of manufacturing expertise and scalability that has left the PCB industry and now needs to be reclaimed, which is equally important, is a bigger shift than we see in other parts of the manufacturing base in the U.S.

Johnson: That’s an interesting point. What we call a finished piece is actually a sub-assembly. A U.S.-based consumer electronics or appliance company making washing machines, let’s say, will see the printed circuit board as a sub-assembly, while we see it as the finished product, To the OEM, it’s just a component of the product that was moved to offshore sourcing.

Bonner: Absolutely. As cyber-physical systems and integrated systems move into almost every arena of traditional products throughout the consumer and commercial and government space, we’re realizing that chipsets are in everything now. It’s not a localized or centralized function or capability. 

It’s interesting to plot the lines of that trajectory. When we want capability, we don’t add it with a smoother surface, a better springload, or rate; we do it with computed capability and real-time information. If we want to keep building capability and subsequently competitive advantage, we must include computing horsepower in almost every application. The increased dependence on chipsets, especially distributed chipsets, embedded systems, and cyber physical systems, is apparent.

To read this entire conversation, which appeared in the April 2022 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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