While the pandemic redefined the world in 2020, the subsequent global semiconductor shortage threw several businesses into complete disarray.
While the pandemic redefined the world in 2020, the subsequent global semiconductor shortage threw several businesses into complete disarray. The sudden unavailability of chips made countries realize how precarious their situation is in a massively technology-dependent world.
This has prompted vast amounts of capital investment to meet demand and address supply chain vulnerabilities in critical technologies. For the physical security industry, this means there are trickle-down projects for some years to come. South Korea, the U.S., and parts of the EU bloc were some of the first countries to make large investments and ramp up production. In recent weeks, we’ve also seen further announcements by Present Biden in the U.S. and Prime Minister Modi in India.
“There is an immediate demand for electronic security measures during the construction phase of semiconductor factories as they are now viewed in many countries as critical national infrastructure,” explained Jason Burrows, Sales Director at IDIS America. “In the U.S., the chip shortage has prompted leaders to treat semiconductors as an essential element of national security. Yet, securing national infrastructure construction sites is often beyond the scope of many systems integrators without previous experience and relevant accreditations.”
Like most manufacturing firms, capacity is not the only issue - there is pressure on the downstream processes such as assembly, inspection, die cutting, packaging, etc. While there is not much human interaction in discrete manufacturing, organizations need to develop a workforce in a sector that, in some ways, is new in North America and Europe.
The U.S. and European manufacturing sectors and their logistics partners are facing acute staff shortages, rising energy costs, and price increases for raw materials. At the same time, the EU bloc and the UK continue to navigate Brexit red tape.
Requirements of semiconductor plants
The semiconductor sector’s rush to add capacity and push supply chains to new limits has put global supply chains and manufacturing resilience in the spotlight and highlighted the weaknesses of just-in-time systems designed to simply reduce costs, lower inventory, and continuously increase efficiency.
Manufacturers today optimize their spending to not only improve resilience and efficiency to reduce operational costs but also to prevent the financial and reputational impact of bottlenecks.
“We’re already seeing re-engineered factories, warehouses, and distribution centers improve capacity and boost output,” Burrows said. “And older warehouses and distribution centers are being retrofitted in the interest of saving money longer term. In doing so, the sector is also tackling a growing list of challenges, including cyber breaches, organized crime, people trafficking, labor shortages, rising transportation costs, and stringent health and safety regulations. And security and video solutions have a vital role to play in the overall strategy of improving the security of manufacturing sites as well as supply chains. “
Theft, fraud, and organized crime
A semiconductor plant - with its complex network of intellectual property in terms of circuit design, wafer fabrication, and processing, which is the most capital and technology-intensive, as well as critical assets such as metrology and material handling equipment, and IT infrastructure - makes cyber and physical security mission critical. Threats can come from suppliers, equipment manufacturers, and partners in the semiconductor ecosystem.
“Today’s high-resolution cameras can help manufacturing sites tackle the scourge of theft, fraud, and organized crime while improving health and safety,” Burrows explained. “Fisheye cameras capable of coping with varied light conditions can provide comprehensive wide area coverage of up to four loading bays with no blind spots. These cameras, which are quick and easy to install and maintain, are replacing up to 3-4 fixed lens cameras to significantly reduce theft or fraud by providing complete domain awareness to the periphery of every scene.”
By scanning barcodes, they provide a detailed visual audit trail of all activities, allowing operators to search by the data associated with the goods, visualize routes, and locate the exact time an incident or damage occurred.
To protect wide-area perimeters, PTZs provide crystal clear image capture and outstanding zoom capabilities with auto-tracking to ensure that any person, vehicle of interest, or suspicious object can be quickly verified and responded to.
“Domes and bullets provide detailed coverage of vehicle gates, staff entrances, and sensitive or high-value storage areas, as well as office workspace, ensuring complete domain awareness to monitor compliance in each process area,” Burrows added. “They also provide users and user groups with real-time alerts so they can resolve an incident quickly, thereby minimizing economic losses.”
Slips, trips, and falls are among the most common accidents in manufacturing, distribution, and warehousing. They cost the industry billions of dollars per year globally, which is why ensuring the health and safety of staff is now a top priority.
Consequently, comprehensive video coverage is imperative. It enables health and safety incidents to be responded to quickly and appropriately. It can also save lives, provide immediate first aid to minimize injury, and provide vital evidence for insurance purposes. Recorded footage also allows users, investigators, and insurance firms to review incidents and identify any bogus injury claims.
“The use of machinery, such as forklifts, is also a prime cause of accidents,” Burrows continued. “IoT devices and compact pinhole cameras can now be installed on forklifts to track and monitor their usage. Alerts can be configured to inform drivers of fellow employees in their path and send notifications to control rooms in the event of an incident, as well as provide a complete visual audit trail for review should an accident take place.”
Dealing with labor shortage
With a focus on maximizing operational efficiency and combating labor shortages, manufacturing sites are increasingly utilizing AI-powered video analytics. These provide operators with rapid detection capabilities while filtering out false alarms, taking the pressure off busy monitoring teams. These technologies can be particularly useful for manufacturing sites, allowing them to protect specific areas using “virtual line” that will alert security staff to unauthorized access or monitor staff using hazardous materials or machinery.
“Object detection capabilities enable operators to automatically identify and track targets, distinguishing real threats from alarms caused by harmless environmental factors,” Burrows said. “In addition, analytics can be configured to identify and track people and vehicles, detect loitering and trespassing, and send notifications to control room staff as well as relay notifications to specified users or user groups.”
Utilizing next-generation Edge AI cameras can ensure that the video analytics are carried out even quicker and with less burden on bandwidth requirements. These cameras offer heat mapping and people counting capabilities, providing operations managers with intelligence on how their sites use space to optimize shift patterns, direct staff to process areas where bottlenecks occur, and better control heating, cooling, and lighting based on peak times.
Staff and people management
Advanced access control that utilizes smartphone QR codes to eliminate the cost and security weaknesses of ID cards is becoming increasingly popular. So are facial recognition, video intercoms, and LPR for regular deliveries to automate staff, contractor, visitor, and vehicle entry.
“This same technology is being used to combat staff attrition with smooth access,” Burrows said. “And, when combined with time and attendance, it ensures that staff and contractors are paid correctly while giving them the convenience of cashless vending and perks such as free coffees and snacks. For larger sites, we’re increasingly seeing the use of deep learning analytics configured to alert users and user groups of everyday events through to incidents and emergencies.”
A market for the future
When economies reopened after the pandemic, the semiconductor market was in a panic state as demand for a wave of goods, from cars to white goods, spiked, all requiring SoCs. At the same time, commercial projects, including new electronic security deployments and upgrades that had been put on hold, rebounded, requiring SoC-based hardware.
“Interdependency also continues to cause problems across the global supply chain,” Burrows said. “For example, while it can take only 30 minutes to make a surveillance camera, if one semiconductor plant shuts or slows down, it can take more than four months to produce a microcontroller chip as there are limits on the speed of silicon processing. That’s why the security industry continues to experience ongoing shortages across a swathe of products from access control network controllers, cameras, to video recorders.”
China’s component supply and material exports continue to be impacted by extended COVID-19 restrictions, which continue to knock on manufacturing worldwide. The country has also recently dealt with severe weather, causing power outages, and forcing several provinces to suspend or restrict energy supplies to factories. The war in Ukraine has also impacted the availability of neon gas, a necessary component in chip manufacturing.
In turn, this puts increased resilience at the top of physical security and risk managers in-tray across the entire manufacturing sector that relies on SoCs and associated components. All this points to increased demand from this sector for physical security companies and integrators who have the capacity for it.